Girls routinely get better grades than boys of ‘identical ability’ because they are prettier and easier to teach, a new study has revealed.
Researchers from the University of Trento in Italy compared the results of almost 40,000 students aged 15 and 16 for a series of standardized tests.
They found that girls are regularly rated higher than boys, despite having equal skills.
The researchers suggest that teachers may unconsciously reward students who display traditional female behaviors, such as silence and niceness, which makes teaching easier.
Ilaria Lievore, a PhD candidate in sociology, said: ‘There is a strong link between having higher grades and desirable educational outcomes, such as getting into good colleges or having a lower probability of dropping out of school.
“As a result, higher grades are also correlated with other outcomes, such as having higher earnings, a better job, or even higher life satisfaction.”
Researchers from the University of Trento in Italy compared the results of nearly 40,000 students aged 15 and 16 on a series of standardized tests (stock image)
Average standardized (INVALSI) test scores in Numeracy and in Literacy for male and female students (left) and average teacher grades in mathematics and languages for male and female students (right)
KEY RESULTS OF THE SURVEY
Girls are given higher grades than boys by teachers, even when they have ‘identical skills’.
This was only significantly affected by class size and type of educational facility, and only for mathematics.
This suggests that it is a systemic bias that exists in teachers of both sexes.
The researchers believe that this may be a result of teachers unconsciously rewarding the traditional female behaviors of silence and niceness, as these traits make their jobs easier.
They could also try to encourage female students in male-dominated subjects such as mathematics.
Gender-related differences in educational attainment are common throughout the world.
A 2020 study revealed that British schoolboys have had worse exam results than girls for 30 years.
However, research has found that the nature of the gap differs with different ways of measuring performance.
When examined through standardized testing where the questions are consistent and have a standard scoring system, boys will outperform girls in math.
Meanwhile, girls will do better in humanities, languages and literacy when tested in the same way.
But when grades are given by teachers in the classroom, women outperform men in all subjects – and the Italian researchers wanted to find out why.
For the study, published in British Journal of Sociology of Educationthey compared the scores of 38,957 10th grade students on both standardized and classroom tests of language arts and mathematics.
The standardized tests were set nationally and scored anonymously, while the classroom exams were set in class and scored by their teachers.
In accordance with previous studies, the girls performed better than the boys in the standardized language tests, while the boys were 5.5 percent ahead in mathematics.
However, the teachers put the girls in front in both subjects; for language their average grade was 6.6 out of ten and for mathematics it was 6.3.
The boys got an average grade of 6.2 in language and 5.9 in mathematics, the latter of which was also below pass 6.
Their analysis also showed that when a boy and a girl were equally competent in a subject, the girl would typically get a higher grade.
This analysis also showed that when a boy and a girl were equally competent in a subject, the girl would typically get a higher grade on a test marked by their teacher (stock image)
The researchers next looked at whether some factors could account for the gender gap in classroom tests, such as school type, class size, and teacher gender or seniority.
However, only two factors were found to have a significant effect, and only in the mathematics tests.
It found that girls did better than boys when the math lessons were longer and if the students attended a technical or academic school rather than a vocational one.
None of the other factors had any significant effect on the gender gap, suggesting that it is a systemic problem embedded in the school system.
The authors wrote: ‘School and classroom environments can indeed be adapted to traditionally female behaviour.
‘Thus, female students may adopt such behaviors in teaching, including precision, order, modesty and silence, which go beyond the individual’s academic performance, but which teachers can reward highly in the form of grades.
Gap in teacher grades in favor of female students in mathematics (left) and in languages (right)
“Conversely, it may be likely that teachers only associate such behaviors with female students because girls are traditionally considered to have these characteristics.”
The researchers believe that teachers reward female students more because they expect them to behave better, rather than as a result of their actual behavior.
Another theory is that higher math grades are a way of trying to encourage girls, who are often seen as weaker in the traditionally male-dominated subject.
The study is the first to reveal that gender bias is systemic and unrelated to the teacher’s educational environment or characteristics.
As it can be the difference between a pass and a fail, the bias can have major consequences and affect boys’ university admissions, job choices and earnings.
The authors note that future research is needed to examine whether there is a specific relationship between gender-related behaviors and teacher grades.
Book characters are four times more likely to be male than female, gender bias study reveals
Characters in books are about four times more likely to be male than female, a new study of gender bias in literature has revealed.
Researchers at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering used artificial intelligence to examine more than 3,000 English-language books ranging from science fiction and adventure, to mystery and romance – across short stories, poetry and novels.
The team found that male characters appeared four times as often as females across the books, although this was reduced when the author of the work was female.
There were also more negative terms used in relation to the female characters such as ‘weak’ and ‘stupid’ compared to ‘strong’ and ‘power’ used for males.
“Gender bias is real, and when we see women four times less in literature, it has a subliminal effect on people who consume the culture,” said writer Mayank Kejriwal.
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