Girls lack confidence when it comes to studying science and technology subjects, despite their strong academic performance.
A new report published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reveals the obstacles that remain to be tackled to eliminate the gender gap in academic attainment and career choices.
The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour and Confidence shows that deep divisions between boys' and girls' prospects still exist, and are partly caused by gender bias, conscious and unconscious, among parents, teachers and employers.
"Despite major progress over the past two decades in reducing the gender gap, we need to find new ways to address the social and emotional aspects of opening children's minds to their abilities and future careers," said OECD deputy secretary-general Stefan Kapferer.
"The good news is that these findings highlight that what's needed is neither extensive nor expensive education reform but a concerted effort by parents, teachers and employers."
Although girls and boys perform similarly in the OECD's PISA science test, less than one in 20 girls considers a career in the highly-paid science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) sectors, compared to one in five boys.
Surveys conducted by the OECD show girls often lack the self-confidence of boys when it comes to science and maths, partly due to differences in parental encouragement.
Meanwhile, boys are much more likely to underperform at school than girls, leading to disengagement and higher dropout rates. Six out of ten of low achievers in reading, maths and science in OECD PISA surveys are boys.
The report suggests a number of pupil interventions that could be used to reduce the gender divide.
Girls are more likely to read novels and magazines, while boys prefer comic books and newspapers, so teachers could offer a more diverse selection of reading material to account for these preferences.
Teaching strategies that require students to explain how they solved a maths problem, apply what they have learned outside of the classroom and work more independently can improve all pupils' results, and particularly benefit girls.
The report also reveals that girls are often awarded better marks than boys in maths, even when they perform similarly in the OECD PISA maths test. This is probably because girls are more attentive in class, it states.
Posted by Alan Douglas