This year’s Leaving Certificates have arrived. Once again girls in Ireland have scored higher grades in all Leaving Certificate subjects. This imbalance is not new or unique to Ireland. This imbalance has existed for several years in many countries including the US, Canada, and the UK.
Why are girls scoring higher than boys on Leaving Certificates?
Girls and boys score similarly on IQ tests. This makes it unlikely that girls are naturally smarter than boys. However, they consistently do better than their male peers academically. School success requires much more than intelligence alone. High scores require study & hard work, and this is where girls may gain an advantage. Girls read more, are more attentive in class, take better notes, spend more time on homework, and show greater persistence on boring or frustrating tasks. They are also less likely to behave poorly in school. All of these characteristics are required to do well in school.
Why are girls more academic?
There are probably many factors at play. Factors such as biology, environment, and cultural differences at home. Parents tend to watch girls’ progress more than boys, check their homework, and correct mistakes. Parents are also more inclined to see girls’ success as due to an effort, but boys’ success of an ability. Such parental attitudes may lead girls to put greater value on working hard and studying. Boys’ belief that they lack ability affects their school performance. Some research suggests that from a very young age boys expect themselves to do worse in school than girls. However, girls by the age of 4 believe they know more than boys and understand the material better. These kind of beliefs about oneself are powerful and drive behavior.
What does this mean for boys?
We do not know with certainty why boys underperform academically. It could be that these differing beliefs and academic efforts play only a small role in their test performance. Perhaps there is an entirely different cause that we have not yet considered. We also don’t know how to help boys succeed as girls do. We do know that if steps are not taken to address this academic gap, boys will continue to underperform. Research is needed to determine both why this gap exists and what we can do to bridge it. Answering these questions is vitally important to ensure that both boys and girls succeed academically.