Girls do better than boys at school – that’s a fact

r834169_7716629When the topic of teaching girls maths, science or programming comes up there a lot of arrant rubbish propounded about boys being better than girls at these sorts of ‘hard’ subjects. A recent study has confirmed what most people would know to be true: It is in fact the other way around; across the board girls get better results in school than boys do. Not only do they do better now, they always have done.

The study looked at records from 1914 to 2011. It took data from 308 studies conducted in 30 countries, although there is a bias towards the US, representing more than 1 million students. The researchers compared the students’ grades, as given by teachers in classes from primary school to university. Overall, the study found that female students consistently earned higher grades in every subject. The difference between the two genders’ grades peaked around the lower end of high school, then slowly tapered off.

The idea that women’s brains function differently, that they don’t get maths, science and programming is simply wrong. If you take school achievement as the measure – girls are simply better than boys in school in all subjects and that includes maths and science.

The question this raises, and it was not addressed by the study which was focused solely on school achievement, is why then girls do not pursue their better results into maths, science or programming careers. I think we all know the answer has nothing to do with the way girls’ brains are wired or any inherent aptitude – it has everything to do with society’s expectations and men’s fears.

The study is Gender Differences in Scholastic Achievement: A Meta-Analysis by Daniel Voyer and Susan D Voyer.

2 thoughts on “Girls do better than boys at school – that’s a fact

  • February 15, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Forgive the drive-by comment, but:

    The idea that “women’s brains function differently […] is simply wrong” also implies that girls shouldn’t “simply [be] better than boys in school in all subjects”–indeed, Janet Hyde’s meta-analyses indicate that there are negligible differences between men and women w.r.t. cognitive ability.

    There’s already plenty of discussion on why “girls do not pursue their better results”–in fact, almost every AAUW study acknowledges the female advantage in school grades, and they devote a significant amount of their text to examining the reasons why women are underrepresented in “maths, science, [and] programming careers” (and most of their executive summaries completely elide any meaningful discussion on boys).

    There’s precious little reasonable popular discussion on why men don’t do just as well as women in school–and, in fact, there’s no shortage of crazies like Dan Hodgins (who trotted out an essentialist and factually wrong supposition about a non-existent part of the brain he called the “crockus”); reactionary views like his would serve to greatly undermine the education of both boys (and girls). I’m thrilled to see that this study’s discussion speculated specifically on why boys receive worse grades in school than girls, without resorting to patently absurd explanations like “the feminization of schools” or a deep “anti-boy feminist conspiracy”. Sadker’s “Still Failing at Fairness” is also pretty good reading.

    Studies like this seem relevant to creating a future in which “success could not be predicted by a person’s sex, their race, their ethnicity, or their level of income” [“Beyond the Gender Wars”].

    • February 15, 2015 at 8:32 pm

      I think we’re saying the same thing here: “The idea that women’s brains function differently, that they don’t get maths, science and programming is simply wrong.” But then I have no idea if you are a real person…


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