Girls get better grades in all subjects, including math and science, and have done for almost a century, according to research from 30 different countries, including the US.
Recent reports of a so-called ‘boy-crisis’ — reports that boy’s performance is dropping further behind girls — are not supported by the wide-ranging data.
There has been no change in the difference between girls and boys across all subjects: girls have always done better.
The findings come from a new analysis of data collected between 1914 and 2011 in over 30 countries around the world (Voyer & Voyer, 2014).
Rather than aptitude tests, the study’s results are based on school grades. The study’s lead author, Daniel Voyer, explained the reasoning:
“School marks reflect learning in the larger social context of the classroom and require effort and persistence over long periods of time, whereas standardized tests assess basic or specialized academic abilities and aptitudes at one point in time without social influences.”
Girls had better grades, on average, in all subjects, than boys, but the gap was largest in the languages and smallest in math and science.
The study’s co-author, Susan Voyer, said:
“The fact that females generally perform better than their male counterparts throughout what is essentially mandatory schooling in most countries seems to be a well-kept secret, considering how little attention it has received as a global phenomenon.”
The study, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, gathered together data from 308 studies into children’s mandatory schooling.
The authors speculate on a few reasons for the gap between girls and boys:
- Girls pushed harder in science: Since boys are assumed to do better at science and maths, girls may be pushed harder by their parents in these subjects.
- Different learning styles: Boys tend to focus more on the grade they get and girls more on understanding the materials. Since mastering the subject-matter actually produces better marks, this may partly explain the difference.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: Bart