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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
Why are girls higher achievers?
A survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has revealed that women in developed countries have overtaken men at every level of education.

According to the report, girls are now more confident of getting better-paid professional jobs than their male counterparts.

One of the main reasons given for this success is that girls tend to be ahead of boys in literacy skills which gives them an advantage when it comes to university admission.

What makes girls high achievers? And why are boys falling behind? Can there be true equality in achievement?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

This topic was suggested by Richard P, UK
Why are girls doing better than boys in education everywhere in the developed world?

Girls tend to do better academically in school because they work harder. But this could be, in part, because girls are less interested in sport. Sport encourages risk taking, which, in the long run, could be the reason why men achieve higher results in the real world.
Stefan Worsley, Tunbridge Wells

I believe the main reason girls do better is the fact that the majority of teachers in primary schools are female. My son is now in primary seven and is being taught by one of just two male teachers in the school, both teachers are P7.
Carousel, N Ireland

I think it's ridiculous to say that girls do better than boys because there are more female teachers. That may be true for the humanities but there were no women in the technology department in my school, lucky for me the male teachers were just as supportive to their only female student! Now that I am doing construction engineering at university there are a few more girls on the course but no female lectures!
Ruth, Ireland

Another contest is it? I think the main reason why boys fall behind is not that they are thick or lazy, they are just not interested until they grow up and realise why they were pestered to study. I won't mention why there are more men in the IT market than women.
Derran, Wales

Because girls distract the boys in lessons! It's obvious. The way some girls dress in class these days would make the most conscientious boy turn his head and cause his mind to wander!
Iain, UK

It depends where your goalposts are. In school or college and many of the new universities - where it seems to boil down more and more to being a diligent parrot, girls are achieving the highest. Yet where it takes individual initiative, the men are equal or doing better. To seemingly be elitist in our flattened society - it is revelatory that the first class pass rate at Oxford University is proportionately dominated by males.
Joseph Winters, Japan

Girls might do well in school but in the stressful workplace it's the boys excel
Brenda, USA
Girls have a very clear advantage in the classroom. Learning/being taught in the class by an instructor is a passive activity. You sit and listen to learn. With boys, the mere sitting and listening is quite difficult for most. Also, most boys need a lot of physical activity. Girls might do well in school but in the stressful workplace it's the boys excel. Boys have that edge when it comes to competitiveness, risk-taking, and working in unfavourable conditions.
Brenda, USA

The socialising effect on student's learning is crucial. If the home values learning and that is reflected in the life of the family, peer pressure is diminished. Many comments are concerned with the "nerd" mentality facing boys. Girls can equally be faced with this pressure. The answer, children who value themselves and learning and schools which reflect that. The internet and alternate educational options now available allow broader choices for students to not be pressured by peer groups.
Tess Williams, Australia

Oh no, here we go again! Another case of women shouting "girls are better/more intelligent/cleverer than boys" and all that rubbish. I'm a girl, but I've always found that if I wish to talk about make-up and hair and all things materialistic and trivial, then I'll go to my girl-friends. But if I want an intelligent, factual conversation then lads are the best to talk to. P.S. I've got a multi-A in A-Levels achieving female friend who couldn't point out Scandinavia on map.
Tabitha, UK

Coursework does count for more than exams in a lot of subjects. I know this I've just done my a-levels and my younger brother has just started his GCSE's so I've seen the subject breakdowns and some of his are 70% coursework and some like leisure and tourism (which is a very popular subject with girls) are 100% coursework.
Craig, UK

Has anybody considered that the way the exams have changed over the years might favour the girls. These days the exams favour those who can explain the best and tests have shown that the distaff side have an advantage when it comes to the use of language. Add to this the preponderance of female teachers especially at primary school level and the negative image of the male sex that has been emphasized over the last few years and perhaps that might help explain a few things.
Andrew, England

I am surprised by the stereotyping that is going on in this debate. There is a freaky triumphant 'joy' that women are doing better then men, which seems really odd. As a young man, the culture nowadays for us is that we are all equal (although different), it seems to me that we are dealing with our fathers' sexist attitudes over the years. If boys at school are 'lazy' etc then we need to deal with it, not assume that 'it's the way they are'. As we have heard, girls weren't so good but now are doing well re exams which is great, but now we need to focus on the boys and get them up to their equal position as well!
Nick Broom, England

Boys aren't failing in schools because they're stupid; they're failing because they're bored out of their minds
Mark, UK
I was one of the first students to take part in the GCSE qualifications and what did I get taught in my English class? Romeo and Juliet. I switched off. I couldn't care less about such a boring story. But what if we'd studied 'The 39 Steps', 'King Solomon's Mines' or even 'Bravo 2 Zero'? Boys don't go home and play games about love or romance; they play games about subjects they enjoy like sports or war. Maybe our education system should at least try and cater for this to keep boys interested. Boys aren't failing in schools because they're stupid; they're failing because they're bored out of their minds.
Mark, UK

Bob, England: The coursework in GCSEs and A-levels really doesn't count for a lot compared to the exam results. I think the reason girls are doing better is because they mature earlier, so they're working hard while boys are still left thinking it's not cool to do your homework.
Jenni, UK

This is not really surprising, Girls and Boys require different teaching techniques, if you put them both in the same classroom then it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that one or both sexes will receive a substandard education. The classes will never separate again though; costs will prevent that ever being an option.
Tony H, UK

From the age of 12 onwards a girl's priority is her school work, however for a boy its "girls"! We'll sit in exam rooms thinking of girls rather than the subject. I do however feel that boys are no less intelligent at this age and are more capable of holding a conversation about the world around them than women. My ex-girlfriend had 2 A's and a B at A-level, yet she knew nothing about life or the world around her. I conclude that it's all about priorities. I'm not disagreeing that women get better jobs these days. In this age of "equality" the "right person for the job" often goes out of the window.
Gavin, Wales

Maybe same sex education is the way forward?
Kirk, Guernsey, CI
Having just completed my degree in electronics, which was (unsurprisingly?) a male dominated course, I would have to say it's to do with your drive. Throughout the whole course, and in fact my academic life I have been outnumbered by boys and have felt the need to equal them to prove my right to be there and so on. So I have worked. The result: I outperformed them. Put a boy in a class of girls, and I think it would be the same. Maybe same sex education is the way forward?
Kirk, Guernsey, CI

Girls are cleverer than boys. Does this really surprise you? Proven everyday! Just look around!
Franziska, UK

The way girls and boys think and respond to situations is fundamentally different, much the same way as they are physically different. Women's minds and thinking is more procedural and they tend to follow processes more diligently, taking less risks. This helps them achieve success in project oriented tasks, and the present educational systems. Girls are believers. They are more tolerant and enduring in general.

As far as boys are concerned, they are more eager to rush to the solutions and achievement of goals. They are more likely to try out innovative methods. This makes males better discoverers, inventors or innovators. At the same time the lack of discipline and tendency to skip procedures is what makes them show inferior results in academics and regular kind of jobs. However I strictly believe man and woman perfectly complement each other. Man provides and earns while woman maintains and nurtures. These basic virtues are still the same.
Sachin Vats, India

I'd say it was the huge surge of Testosterone that boys experience in their teens. Our heads are so messed up that we can't concentrate on work. There's also kudos in being a rebel, more for a boy than a girl.
Keeno, UK

girls mature faster and the British academic system favours early maturity
Inna Tysoe, USA
Girls tend to be better at "literacy" (i.e. writing) but boys tend to be better at maths. In the UK that would give girls a dual advantage because girls mature faster and the British academic system favours early maturity. In the US however girls do not have such a disproportionate advantage since scores for maths and language are weighted equally and university admission (and specialization) is a bit down the road. The problem (if there is one) is not the girls; it's the British education system.
Inna Tysoe, USA

My experience, on both sides of the gender divide, may shed some light on the question. I was a young male university professor, and now, after gender-reassignment, live as a businesswoman and wife here in the U.S. Very different things are expected from me now, and such expectations bear directly on academic performance. For a woman, in group conversations, or in the classroom, consensus-building and cooperation are strongly encouraged. Women are expected to studiously and quietly focus on meeting the group's, or institution's, goals. A distracting, loud or competitive woman is not warmly embraced in the company of women.

Men who would meet those expectations are considered passive and weak, and are not held up as revered examples of masculinity. This difference in expectations appears to be strengthening with each generation. Just watch any 'college' or 'fraternity' movie and you will see the (exaggerated) idealized young man: he is certainly not in school to study or quietly and cooperatively meet academic expectations (those that do are considered to be "geeks" or un-masculine). Success is partly a function of the expectations we aim to meet.
Lauren P., United States

I've heard that while average ability is higher among females, the variance is higher among males, with the result that top-performing individuals are disproportionately male even while females do better on average. Is/was this the scientific consensus?
Joe , US

Educate a man, and you educate an individual. Educate a woman, and you educate a nation
George Mena, USA
Girls have always been higher achievers, primarily because they do mature more quickly than boys physically. Also, it must be said that girls (women) engage in process-oriented thinking, while boys (men) engage in goal-oriented thinking. Both thought processes complement each other. Perhaps most telling, however, is how the genders are raised during childhood. Males are raised to be independent thinkers, while females are raised to be thinkers capable of arriving at a decision that's good for a group, rather than an individual. And, whether anyone likes it or not, the following adage is true: Educate a man, and you educate an individual. Educate a woman, and you educate a nation. And in this day and age, the women are refusing to play dumb anymore for the sake of the male ego. Deal with it.
George Mena, USA

My girlfriend tells me that women do better at exams because they are always right.
Martin, England

Girls have always reached their intellectual peak before boys because they mature quicker, but eventually boys catch up and often surpass girls. With too much political correctness and not enough discipline, maybe today's teachers give up too early on the boys.
eccles, UK

Why the surprise ? A significant proportion of mammal and insect species have the female at the centre, with seemingly unthinking males being the providers - whether it be food, work, war, or sex. And hey - we're much better at those things than thinking anyway !
Mike Raven, USA

Many teachers and schools have low expectations of boys
Mikey McClean, UK
The education and assessment system has changed to make it 'girl friendly', encouraging neatness and carefully paced work rather than examination. The majority of teachers in state schools are women who naturally teach in the way they like to learn, further reinforcing girls advantage. Many teachers and schools have low expectations of boys, and so they live down to those expectations. Its time to balance things back up.
Mikey McClean, UK

Well, the statistics are not quite true, as my university (Cambridge, statistically the top academic institution in the country) remains the one place left in the developed world where male students achieve on average higher grades than female students. Although, I myself fit the general trend...
Leo, UK

I think it is due to lots of reasons from different angles, but socially, I think it's because of some of the emasculation produced by the feminist movement. Just look at the messages contained on TV and in advertising. When is manhood openly celebrated or encouraged? It's only when it somehow, in a twisted way, fits the feminist agenda. Feminists have helped produce 'nice' boys with little encouragement to take risks encouraging them to be fully men. Instead, they are encouraged to be safe, dream little, and be like girls. What a bummer.
Justin, USA

Girls work much harder, are systematic and clear in their approach
Shahana Ahmed, Lahore, Pakistan
Girls work much harder, are systematic and clear in their approach. Girls finish things. Boys tend to be more erratic and weaker in approaching learning systematically. I feel I have achieved because I have steadily worked at what I aimed at, kept my targets clear and realistic and did not dream up dreams that could never be achieved.
Shahana Ahmed, Lahore, Pakistan

Many men here seem to be justifying their (presumably) mediocre academic achievements by claiming the educational system favours girls. What it actually favours is maturity and application. Perhaps there should be exams in laziness, aggression and insolence in order to balance things out a bit.
Frank , UK

Having two teen children, one a boy and one a girl, I do see a difference in the peer culture they are subjected to. My son, very bright, dumbed down to fit this culture that believed to be popular you had to reject studying. My daughter's peer culture was less damaging. The rejection of school affected her most in fifth and sixth grade. For my son it went through high school. I have a feeling peer pressure will catch up to girls in the future, though, after making great strides now. I really think it is all about the culture, both popular culture through the media and their peers.
Arlene, USA

A decade or so ago it was decided that the exam set-up favoured boys over girls. Since then GCSEs have changed to give course-work more prominence thereby giving girls an inherent advantage. Now girls do better - exactly as intended. Why is this even an issue? It is the planned outcome.
Bob, England

It shouldn't be seen as a threat that women are capable of over-achieving
Cassandra, US
Adversity creates excellence in us, and for women, thousands of years of controlled existence has finally let up a bit and allowed women to excel in a respected area - education. It shouldn't be seen as a threat that women are capable of over-achieving but as a welcomed change in a world that is still dominated by men.
Cassandra, US

Girls are more conscio...
... conscientious.
Have I spelled that right?
Bilal Patel (a bloke), London, UK

Academia is an environment where those who conform are rewarded. This is generally true with the business world as well. Since women prefer not to disturb the social environment and tend not to take risks, they tend to move upwards in their environment. Men are usually risk takers who seek to improve upon things and are very individualistic. This causes them to often be looked upon as outside of the herd. Failure and competition is frowned upon from within a herd, as is the unnecessary commotion that men often create. Therefore, men are not preferred, where quiet hard working women who follow the line are preferred. To improve this boys need male teachers and an environment that accepts competition, drive, and rewards male creativity and individualism.

Entrenched gender stereotypes are, unfortunately, still accepted within the higher levels of education
Devon, USA
Contrary to another respondent, I find the comments submitted by females to be celebrating the success and hard work of women, while many male responses appear defensive - blaming an educational system rife with unsupportive female teachers. As a recent law school graduate where 60% of my classmates were women, I assure you that professional schools are still taught primarily by men, primarily for men. Why are most Nobel prize recipients male? Because entrenched gender stereotypes are, unfortunately, still accepted within the higher levels of education and their respective professions. All individuals, regardless of gender should be encouraged to succeed academically. What this OECD study should alert us to are the varied ways each of us learn, and the immense capacity for women to succeed in the profession of their choice.
Devon, USA

I doubt that boys demonstrate declining ambition or drive, it is simply that girls today are extremely motivated because they're working against a historical bias and may have a point to prove. A lot of young women have also witnessed women in older generations being economically trapped in unhealthy marriages due to lack of financial independence. It may be important for girls to believe they have effective choices in life and in relationships if they can succeed in a heretofore man's world.
Parveen Khodaiji Shah, United States

Separating boys and girls won't help much. When I was in high school I enjoyed classroom debate and asked a lot of questions and wasn't afraid to disagree with my classmates when they got stuff wrong. A lot of the other girls had the opposite learning style. If there were no boys in our classes, the teachers would still have had to deal with two different learning styles.
Mina, USA

Girls succeed because the curriculum is currently geared to project work - which boys are useless at until they become adults. In addition boys also need strict discipline - alas they don't get it in today's school system.
Richard Mottershead, United Kingdom

I just don't think that co-educational methods bring out the best in either gender
Aegir, United Kingdom
I think boys and girls require different educational methods. When I was younger I learned better when given examples that related to application, female friends got on with the theories better. It's a gross generalisation but there has to be differences. I just don't think that co-educational methods bring out the best in either gender. Current fashions benefit girls, maybe in a few years it'll benefit boys. It does society no good to claim that one gender is "better" than another. We can't abandon 51% of the population like this!
Aegir, United Kingdom

As a father of three - two girls and a boy - I see a massive difference in the ability of my son to sit still and concentrate for long periods of time compared to his sisters, unless (and this is crucial) he has worn himself out in some intense physical activity beforehand. When I was at primary school, we had P.E. every day, and this burnt off much of the excess energy us boys had. We were able to sit down and concentrate without 'ants in our pants'. Today's heavy curriculum leaves no time for this physical activity. Shorter break times and less energetic pastimes (video games etc) generally leave boys restless, fidgety and difficult to teach. Bring back more sports time and longer breaks for boys to run around playing football etc. It'll help them sit still and do wonders for their attention span!
Richard Topping, USA

I'll get pilloried for this, but an old joke springs to mind: Women do better than men because than can use sex to get what they want. Men can't do this, because sex IS what they want...

PS: Top marks to Dave, USA (below) for his comment that "being 'equal' and being the 'same' are two different things" - hear, hear.
Russ, UK

The study quoted showed Finland to have a 50% higher literacy for girls than boys. There is no mention of how this is measured - so how can we make informed decisions about the validity of the study? The reality in Finland is that although women author 40% of the PhD's annually, they still only obtain 20% of the professorships. This in a so-called progressive country. It's obvious that equality has a long way to go. Also, and this has been a major criticism of similar studies, if girls have a higher natural capacity for literacy, as many have claimed, then boys are not necessarily 'falling behind', but rather girls are realising their potential in this field. To suggest all boys if they are not succeeding in literacy are not interested in a career is ridiculous, but some people are far too quick to jump on the bandwagon with a stereotype, boys are only interested in video games and girls. I have been a teacher for many years and I tell it's simply not true.
Mark P, Finland

During the years that most of an individuals education occurs girls are more mature
Michael Tritschler, USA
Some of these reason (or should I say excuses) cited by the readers seem to have no basis in fact. There is no giant, worldwide plot to deny a boy an equal education or to further a girl's education beyond that offered to boys. The only difference is that during the years that most of an individuals education occurs, girls are more mature and mature faster throughout that time. This maturity allows them to see the ramifications of a poor education and the benefits of trying to excel in school and striving to achieve. Girls were behind for so long because during most of human history it was felt that an education was wasted on a girl as her life goal would have been to get married and have babies and let the husband work and support the family. Since that is no longer the only "choice" for girls today they are able to, through greater maturity, see the value of a good education and using the same tools and opportunities, able to excel in school settings.
Michael Tritschler, USA

Girls cheat.
Jon, UK

This is because there is now an extreme cultural and socio-economic bias favouring females in any given field of endeavour, cultivated by the feminist movement that has sought to emasculate males in society in order to achieve their agenda of alleged equality.
Joe Fitzgerald, USA

If Girls achieved as much in the real world as they did in school, then I would say that this is a valid comment. However they don't, so what's wrong? Both genders have equal potential, but it would seem that academia is becoming geared towards females, but doesn't prepare them for a career. Otherwise wouldn't men would be doing as badly in the workplace as they are apparently doing at school?
Anthony Hunt, UK

women are much more open to instruction and criticism than men
Jason, USA
I believe the female personality is more favourable for the academic setting. They mature at an earlier age. They have, in general, a longer attention span than males. It has been my experience that women are much more open to instruction and criticism than men. Also, men just want to do the work and get the job done, whereas women like to talk about it and theorize --- which is precisely what education is all about. Where the divide occurs is in analytical, creative and strategic thinking. Domains typically dominated my men.
Jason, USA

Each and every human's mind think and react differently. You simply can't compare two or more humans and expect them to think the same. Place two girls or two boys together who are taught at the same rate. One will be better than the other in a particular subject. The way each person is brought up and affected by their surroundings alter the way they think. The way modern society treats girls and boys could play a major factor in how they perform, in this example, in education.
Albert, London, UK

Apart from physical difference between men and women (better spatial awareness in men for example) there is a similar bias in education as there is in health - females have more time and money spent on them, and more facilities provided.
Luke, UK

Despite all of the studies and educational findings, men still make up the vast majority of top business leaders, scientist, and politicians. Women will usually end their careers and look for a man to support them when they want to start a family.
Jerome, USA

I would like to respond to the sender of the following - "men still make up the vast majority of top business leaders, scientist, and politicians. Women will usually end their careers and look for a man to support them when they want to start a family." All I say to that is those top leaders, business men and company fat cats etc, are all men because they are scared stiff knowing that if a women was to take over - they'd do the job first time around, no arguments and better - Its also a proven fact that women can multi-task, men simply cannot and I think that some men like to think they rule the world when the simple fact is that us women are better at it. All men know that, hence not letting them have any of the top jobs.
Kell, UK

I grew up with my mother telling me how lucky I was to have opportunities she never had. She was determined that I wouldn't leave school at the earliest possible moment without any qualifications and get a job as her parents forced her to do. I suspect many girls will have had a similar experience - it certainly motivated me to concentrate on getting an education. However, I think it was my dad's insistence that arts degrees were less useful than science ones that pushed me towards studying chemistry at university.
Sarah, UK

I think that female teachers have trouble gaining the respect of boys and young men. Boys need a male role model, and a different style of teaching to that currently offered. Certainly at my school (way back when) the boys always behaved better with a teacher who had their respect, and few women teachers can earn the respect from adolescent boys.
John McArthur, UK

Women of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your aprons
Graham Wilson, UK
I have taught and conducted research into the gender difference in numerous countries around the world and in every one the girls outperform the boys. Their brains and changing social positions due to evolving economic realities prepares them much better for academia and social advancement through work. Women of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your aprons.
Graham Wilson, UK

Huh? Women overtaking men? Out of over 300 scientific Nobel prizes in history only about 10 went to women. This ratio hasn't changed a bit. The Internet revolution was conceived of, designed and implemented by men. The governing boards of Silicon Valley consist of men (HP's exception confirms the rule). Enter "math (or physics) Olympiad" into your search engine and look at the gender of participants. 90% boys. Females having greater "literary skills"? Really? Most of Nobel prizes in literature go to men. Top 10% of Hollywood screenwriters are men. Degrees? They mean nothing in today's high-tech economy.

The most entrepreneurial individuals drop out of Harvards and Stanfords (to found Microsofts and Yahoos) or don't even bother studying. University admissions are tweakable by social engineers to meet politically correct goals. High-level, creative, intellectual achievement, as evidenced by real-life performance (not rote memory studying for exams) remains a male domain. Wake me up when half the Nobel prizes in physics go to women.
Greg, US

Having worked in the Education Development field, one of the key issues is the different maturity phases that girls and boys go through. Girls mature much earlier in life and then develop the required academic skills to succeed for higher education demands. What is interesting though, is how boys rapidly catch up in performance stats when you look at higher-level education statistics, which in some part is a result of their later maturity phase.
Dave T, Ireland

The brains of men and women are different. They think differently. Put a group of men and women together in any situation, you're going to find that one group (depending on the situation) tends to 'succeed' more than the other. This has nothing to do with the fairness of the situation. Men are good at some things, women are good at others. It's foolish to assume that men and women are the same (being 'equal' and being the 'same' are two different things, a concept lost on our society.)
Dave, USA

Role models for my generation of the 1970's used to be the likes of Einstein, Faraday and Stephen Hawking. For most teenagers of the 90's these names were replaced by Michael Jordan, Puff Daddy and Tiger Woods. And this trend is only worsening with time. We as a society need to re-align our goals and priorities. Is it in watching that killer game of football or next to a study desk reading about Quarks?
Ahsan Upal, Canada

Girls still seem to concentrate in human sciences and literature
Yanick Vaillancourt, Québec
Once again, we have a study of this kind. As a former teacher and now a professional, I would like to bring a nuance to this. I've noted, that although girls seemed to perform better at high school level and to be more present than men in Universities, they still are in inferior number in some areas. Here they still account for about 25% of engineering graduates, 10% of computer sciences graduates and 50 % of graduates in health sciences. Girls still seem to concentrate in human sciences and literature. Why is that? Unlike boys, they seem to still want to achieve a degree with no regards of the career opportunities attached to them. Boys will prefer a technical degree with which they can make a living. As for the performances in high schools, we now start to realise that school is designed for girls, with mainly women teachers. No wonder it's tough to perform when you keep being told you are too turbulent, lack attention, are aggressive, etc.
Yanick Vaillancourt, Québec

The education system in Canada certainly favours girls and women's values. It's less about the amount of work or some mysterious "intelligence gap", than about motivating either the boys OR the girls. It seems that in mixed classrooms, you can't give an equally good education to both sexes. The structure of courses, the way you talk to them, the examples you give, the way you prepare team work and activities, the way you evaluate students... it's different enough to require separate classrooms. I've had a female teacher who kept punishing boys because "girls listen more, boys keep talking in the classroom". Well, if the boys are not "right" for the education system, then maybe we need separate classes... or we refuse access to the boys because they "disrupt" the girls' education!
Hugo, Canada

Boys are taught from a young age that they should put their primary effort into developing their physical skills. The men who are commonly portrayed in popular culture are the athletes, the soldiers, the fighters. Girls by contrast are taught early on to develop their brain, and in particular language. At least in the US, exceptions to this rule are subject to extraordinary pressure by both their peers and their educators to match the mold. It's not impossible to buck that trend, but it takes more willpower than your average child has.
Dave, United States

Not every issue needs to be viewed as a war of genders
Paul, UK
Why is it that the female responses so far have attacked males while the male responses are suggesting answers. Not every issue needs to be viewed as a war of genders. If there is a practical reason it should be addressed, no one has suggested that it be at the expense of female students (so far)
Paul, UK

Girls are far more mature than boys. They seem to have a more realistic perception of life at an earlier age. Being 24, I have noticed that many of my high-achieving female counterparts do feel the pressure of the "biological clock" and look more seriously towards marriage and children, where an ambitious man can wait until he feels successful enough in his field to settle down. As they say, girls turn 18 every day.
Randall, US

Well true that a few girls are higher achievers. Whereas most boys are average achievers. And this has got nothing to do with whether the country is developed or not.
Madibe Makola, South Africa

My guess? Because the skills needed to get ahead in education (literacy, the ability to listen to instructions, getting down to doing tedious work) aren't fashionable "youth" behaviour. Girls are still more likely to do as they're told and get on with the work than boys. We're not necessarily brighter, just more dutiful and willing to work.
Lucy Hewitt, UK

I think that this is great news
Abbas A, Canada
Part of this shift in education results is simply proof that, contradictory to patriarchal teachings, women have and can and will make great contributions to society. It also proves that within the past it has been lack of access to resources and knowledge that has kept patriarchy intact and women as 'less competent, second class citizens'. I think that this is great news and can greatly contribute to the debasing of the fictitious dogmas of biological determinism and limitations of sex/gender roles.
Abbas A, Canada

Girls work harder, because they are used to reacting that way to pressure. They needed it because there always has been more pressure on girls to mature and to look beautiful. In addition, most girls find it easier to concentrate on details while men have more difficulties staying focused while studying.
Alban, Belgium

The educational system MUST address unique learning styles for boys. Balance needs to be achieved so that both sexes have equal chances of success in learning endeavours.
Lisa Spracklin, Canada

There is a strong tendency in modern culture to rubbish young men, other than athletes and members of traditionally victimised groups. How often are young men described as "inspirational" or allowed to be "proud"? Rarely. How often are men rubbished in TV ads where, if gender roles were swapped, an ad would be banned? Constantly. Men have lost the sexual revolution and young men, like all depressed losers, have given up are paying the price...
Martin, UK

The fruits of the feminist revolution of the 60s
Trudi, UK
Females have always outstripped males educationally but their exam results were adjusted downwards to adapt to social norms in the 50s and 60s. Then, girls could not aspire to be doctors, they had to be nurses. They could not aspire to be corporate bosses but had to be secretaries. Everyone takes for granted that single women are granted mortgages - they were not the norm before the 70s. The fruits of the feminist revolution of the 60s are the high career expectations and economic independence of women we see today.
Trudi, UK

Girls achieve more at school because they are watching the future while the boys are watching the girls.
Guy Chapman, UK

Girls (and women) work harder than boys (men). That's it. It's not rocket science!!!
Jess T, UK

Boys still do rather better than girls at "hard science", i.e. Maths, Physics and to a lesser extent Chemistry. This is not evident from the A-level results since many comprehensive schools have virtually given up on these subjects (too difficult for the teachers!). If we introduced more rigour and discipline into our education system then the gender gap would soon begin to close.
David MacDonald, UK

Girls seem to be more focused than their male counterparts
Abul-Rahman Akande, USA
This is a trend I've noticed for quite a while now. Girls seem to be more focused than their male counterparts. Boys are actually a minority in colleges here in New York City. I have also observed that my fellow male colleagues are easily distracted by other things like quick money, cars, fame and, of course, women. It's a known fact here in NYC that young girls go back to school after having had children. Now that's determination. Nonetheless, I agree with the fellow commenter who notes that men have gotten better at cooking - this shows that we are gaining ground in other areas previously reserved for women. We guys deserve some credit too.
Abul-Rahman Akande, USA

Simple. The feminisation of education. Boys require discipline and specific targets. The woolly education policies of today do not provide this. No surprise then that while numbers of individuals passing are rising (both boys and girls), the standards are falling. Unfortunately we have now turned a full vicious circle with degrees not being worth the paper they're printed on but the job market largely controlled by individuals with similar qualifications from a few years back.
Derek Sinclair, UK

At the same time men are getting better at cooking, so it's all equal.
Benjamin Nelson, UK

It's not surprise that boys in developed countries are falling behind. Any teacher of teens will tell you that boys seem to think that (a) being thick/aggressive/criminal is cool, and (b) the world owes them a salary and lifestyle equivalent to that of a professional footballer, with little or no effort on their part. Popular culture does little to disabuse them of these false beliefs. Girls do better than boys (despite the idiotic advance of so-called 'ladette' culture) because they are less likely to view literacy skills as 'boring' or 'sad'.
Pat, UK

Girls top of the class worldwide
16 Sep 03  |  Education


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