Performance Differences Between Girls and Boys in Science Courses


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Most people think boys perform better in Science Courses than girls.

However, in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) other conclusions are drawn. In the 2006 PISA-study 400.000 students, age 15, from 57 countries making close to 90% of the world economy participated.

Some conclusions from the PISA-study on Science

  • Males and females showed no difference in average science performance in the majority of countries, including 22 of the 30 OECD countries.
  • In most countries, females were stronger in identifying scientific issues, while males were stronger at explaining phenomena scientifically.
  • Males performed substantially better than females when answering physics questions.
  • In most countries more females attend higher performing, academically oriented tracks and schools than do males.
  • Gender differences in attitudes to science were most prominent in Germany, Iceland, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and in the partners Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong-China and Macao-China, where males reported more positive characteristics on at least five aspects of attitude.
  • Of the attitudes measured in PISA, the largest gender difference was observed in students’ self-concept regarding science.
  • In 22 out of the 30 OECD countries in the survey, males thought significantly more highly of their own science abilities than did females.

Some conclusions from the PISA-study on Reading

  • Reading is the area with the largest gender gaps. In all OECD countries in PISA 2006, females performed better in reading on average than males.
  • Overall gender differences in mathematics were less than one-third as large as for reading.

Other relevant observations from other studies

  • On respect of preferences boys still prefer Science studies more than girls, but the girls are catching up. A Dutch study by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research reported in 2014 that since 2007, girls following Science courses at high schools in the Netherlands increased from 20% to 38%.
  • With respect to encouragement. Many studies in the past have shown that boys are more encouraged than girls, however especially with the special promotion activities targeting girls, this unbalance is rapidly disappearing.



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