For years, research has confirmed a gender gap when it comes to academic success—and now another study has again concluded that girls are better at reading and writing than boys. Despite confirming previous studies, it only raises more questions about why this gender gap exists in the first place—and could point educators towards what can be done about it.

A team of researchers from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia found that girls are generally better at reading and writing than boys, with advances starting as early as fourth grade. More worrisome, the divide between the genders grows as kids enter high school. The team reached their conclusion by studying data collected over three decades via the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Analyzing the test scores of over 3.9 million students in the fourth, eighth and 12th grades the study found that girls performed significantly better at reading and writing tests than boys starting in fourth grade. They continued to outperform boys over the years, but by 12th grade the gap was most significant in writing more than reading.

Unfortunately the study did not look for an answer to why this huge divide is occurring. Some evidence suggests it could be learning difficulties that occur more frequently in boys than girls, differences in how boys and girls utilize their brain hemispheres or even societal pressure that feminizes reading and writing.

Keith Topping, a professor of educational and social research at the University of Dundee also points out a flaw in the study in regards to how the National Assessment of Educational Progress measures reading and writing skills.

“If their reading tests have not provided an equal balance between fiction and nonfiction, this is likely to have disadvantaged boys, who are known to be more interested in nonfiction. Likewise with the writing tests. And how did they do the writing tests, since assessing writing is notoriously subjective,” he explained to Newsweek. “Another issue is whether girls (being more conformist) are more likely to apply themselves to the tests, while the boys have a much more careless approach. Peer pressure may be relevant to this.”

While the study’s findings are very concerning, the focus for parents and educators should be finding out why this divide is happening and to determine how we can change it. Hopefully this study will open the door to more research that answers these important questions.

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: NeONBRAND via Unsplash



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