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Equally prepared for life?

How 15-year-old boys and girls perform in school

image of Equally prepared for life?

This report explores the educational performance and attitudes of males and females during childhood and adolescence. It opens with a general summary of gender differences measured outside of the PISA assessment programme and then considers the knowledge gained about gender-related issues from PISA 2000, PISA 2003 and PISA 2006 when reading, mathematics and science respectively were the major domains of assessment. Among the key findings: in reading in PISA 2000, females significantly outscored males in all countries; in mathematics in PISA 2003, males outscored females somewhat; in the combined science scale in PISA 2006, there was no overall significant difference observed between males and females. However, when examining the various science competencies, knowledge components and attitudes to science, there were some marked differences.

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Gender matters?

For the past few decades there has been an increasing interest in the different educational experiences, success and eventual outcomes that prevail for males and for females. The interest in this area was fuelled in part by a perceived lack of interest and success of females in a number of areas of schooling – notably mathematics and the physical sciences. In more recent times there has also been a focus on the lack of engagement and success of males, especially in the area of reading.

Educational policy has to take into account the existence of gender differences in performance to be effective in promoting quality student outcomes and equity. This report draws heavily on the OECD’s Programme for International Assessment (PISA) where it has been found that female students do better in reading (OECD, 2001) and male students do somewhat better in mathematics (OECD, 2004). In science, the picture is more complex. It has been found that student attitudes and engagement explain, in part, gender difference in mathematics and reading, a finding that, by itself, can foster a better understanding of how students learn and thereby help design more effective educational policies (OECD, 2007a).

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