Why Are Girls Smarter than Boys in Exams?

May 19, 2016
By Dong ShaoxiaoEditor: Rong Chen
Why Are Girls Smarter than Boys in Exams?
Students study hard to prepare for the National College Entrance Examination.[Xinhua]


Experts from a Shanghai university have published a report on gender differences among students taking the gaokao, or National College Entrance Exam, in China, hoping to explore the gender gaps and learn more about the nation's education system.

The research was led by professor Pang Weiguo and Shao Zhifang from the School of Psychology and Cognitive Science at the city's East China Normal University.

Focused on figures from the past decade, the research analyzed statistics based on the gender ratio of participants and how difficult the exam was in different years. It aimed to find out underlying reasons of gender difference in the national exam and propose strategies to tackle problems brought about by inequalities.

As revealed in the research, the number of female participants in the gaokao has grown as the country has achieved educational reform since 2000.

Specifically, the ratio of female students among the total number of students admitted into colleges was 53 percent in 2007 and 55 percent in 2013, surpassing the ratio of 40 percent in 1999.

The present situation of gender difference in exams

Analysis of the gender gap in exams was regarded as a basic research foundation by the cognitive science group.

Researchers believe that people of both genders should have the same chance to receive education.

It has become a common feature for girls to have better exam results than boys. Researchers found that in the national exam of 2007, female students achieved an average of 14.85 points more than male students.

Also, statistics show that female undergraduates who had previously passed the gaokao accounted for 52.12 percent of the total number of students in colleges. The percentage in the case of postgraduates is seemingly the same, even though males are still the majority of PhD students with a high ratio of around 63 percent.

In contrast, female students in high school are 49.98 percent of the total, and the percentage of females in middle or primary schools is both below 47 percent. This uneven ratio between school education and higher education reveals that girls perform better than boys in the gaokao and those who pass the exam can apply for desirable universities to continue their higher education.

The gender difference in exams is not unique in China

During the 70s, a similar phenomenon occurred in Western countries. Another research in 2009 on education among eight countries showed that with the shrinking gap of gender difference, cases of unfair education began to decline in 1947 and have continued to do so.

In the U.S., the first time that the number of female students surpassing male students occurred in 1979, and this gender ratio has grown ever since.

Also, in Canada, according to the research, the percentage of female students was 15 percent higher than males at universities in 2009.

Probably a major cause of the gender difference in the entire educational system

The rising numbers of female students in college can be regarded as an indication of social development with improved status and enhanced cognition of self-independence among women, remarked researchers.

Also, in most cases, parents encourage their daughters to receive higher education, whilst in the past they might have forced girls to drop out from school.

Researchers claim that gender difference revealed in the exams probably can trace its source back to early childhood education, as the domination of female staff teachers has aggravated the gender imbalance among primary schools and kindergartens.

In fact, a lack of male teachers in preschools is a common problem facing many cities and provinces around China as institutions of early education in the country have been struggling to recruit and keep male staff.

(Source: edu.gmw.cn / Translated and edited by Women of China)

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