An OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report into gender differences in learning outcomes has found that students’ attitudes towards their learning and their behaviour while at school are the principal reasons why some students do better than others.
The ABC of gender equality in education: Aptitude, behaviour, confidence report includes data from 64 countries and economies. These are the 34 OECD countries and 30 partner countries and economies. Emphasis is placed on what the authors call ‘new gender gaps in education’, which include the fact that young men are ‘significantly more likely’ than young women to be ‘less engaged with school and have low skills and poor academic achievement’. However, young women are under-represented in the areas of mathematics, physical science and computing in higher education and beyond.
The report’s chapter headings provide a neat synopsis of the lengthy report’s contents: ‘Emerging gender gaps in education’ covers the above topic in detail; ‘Tackling under-performance among boys’ examines what out-of-school activities boys undertake and how this affects their attitudes; ‘Girls’ lack of self-confidence’ looks at the reasons why girls are often anxious about maths and science subjects; ‘Expectations and reality for school-leavers’ is a lengthy section on gender expectations in careers; ‘How family, school and society affect boys’ and girls’ performance at school’ looks at the role played by parents in their children’s schooling; and, finally, ‘Policies and practices to help boys and girls fulfil their potential’ posits ways in which gender gaps can be closed.
The report suggests that parents have an important role to play in encouraging equal participation in all subjects for their male and female offspring. And teachers should become aware of their own gender biases, which may affect the way they mark the work of some students. Opinion leaders also have a role to play in closing the gender gap.