According to a UNESCO study of primary and secondary schools in 120 countries, the gender disparities in favor of children observed in mathematics during the first years of schooling then gradually disappear.
The differences between boys and girls in middle and high school
Gender disparities in favor of boys observed in mathematics during the first years of school gradually disappear thereafter, according to a new publication in UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report. This publication invites us to deepen our thoughts on gender inequality and the barriers that prevent girls from realizing their potential.
UNESCO’s annual report, ‘Deepening the debate on who’s left behind’, dedicated to gender analyzed data from primary and secondary schools from 120 countries, with the aim of offering a whole. The findings indicate that boys perform better than girls in math at the beginning of school, but that this difference eventually disappears.
This analysis confirms that the learning gap is narrowing, even in the poorest countries. And in some countries, the trend has even reversed. For example, in the eighth grade (4th grade), girls are ahead of boys in math by 3 points in Cambodia, 1.7 points in Congo, 7 points in Malaysia and 1.4 points in the Philippines.
However, discrimination and stereotypes are likely to continue to influence learning outcomes. While girls catch up in mathematics at the end of primary and secondary school, boys are far more often overrepresented among the best pupils in mathematics, all countries combined.
In middle- and high-income countries, girls perform much better in secondary school science. Despite this advantage, girls remain less likely to choose a career in science, indicating that gender bias may be a persistent barrier to pursuing studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Girls outnumber boys in reading
If girls do well in math and science, they are also better at reading. Girls are more likely than boys to achieve the minimum level of proficiency in this area. The biggest gap in primary education is found in Saudi Arabia, where 77% of girls reach the minimum level of reading skills in CM1, compared to only 51% of boys.
The girls are 18 points ahead of the boys in Thailand, 11 points in the Dominican Republic and 10 points in Morocco. Even in countries where girls and boys read at the same level in their first years of schooling, such as Lithuania and Norway, the gap in favor of girls reaches around 15 points by age 15.
“Girls show what they are capable of in school when they have access to education. But many of them, especially the most disadvantaged, do not have the slightest chance to learn. We need not fear this potential. We should encourage it and watch its evolution. For example, it is sad to see that most girls in Afghanistan do not have the opportunity to reveal their skills to the world. “Complains Malala Yousafzai, co-founder of the Malala Fund.
“Although more data is needed, recent publications have helped paint a near-global picture of gender disparities in learning outcomes just before the pandemic. Girls outperform boys in reading and science and are catching up in math. their chances of being among the best students in this subject are still very low due to persistent discrimination and stereotypes. This is why we must achieve gender equality in learning and ensure that every learner realizes their potential. Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report.
Find this report in English here.