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Gender Differences in Education

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In 2015, PISA asked students about the occupation they expect to be working in when they are 30 years old. Students’ responses were later grouped into science-related and non-science-related careers – with the former including science and engineering professionals; health professionals; science technicians and associate professionals; and information and communication technology (ICT) professionals. Girls and boys are almost equally likely to expect to work in a science-related career.


On average across OECD countries, almost one in four students (24%) reported that they expect to work in an occupation that requires further science training beyond compulsory education. Specifically, 8.6% of students expect to work as professionals who use science and engineering training (e.g. engineer, architect, physicist or astronomer), 11.4% as health professionals (e.g. medical doctor, nurse, veterinarian, physiotherapist), 2.6% as ICT professionals (e.g. software developer, applications programmer), and 1.4% as science-related technicians and associate professionals (e.g. electrical or telecommunications engineering technician).

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Gender Differences in Education

  1. 1. Yuri Belfali Gender differences in Education through the lens of PISA Francesca Borgonovi
  2. 2. Educational attainment Measured in the most common metric - years of schooling - the industrialised world essentially closed the educational gender gap in the 1960s
  3. 3. Years of schooling over the 20th century OECD average 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 1896- 1900 1901-05 1906-10 1911-15 1916-20 1921-25 1926-30 1931-35 1936-40 1941-45 1946-50 1951-55 1956-60 1961-65 1966-70 1971-75 1976-80 Men Women Averageyearsof schooling About half of the economic growth in OECD countries over the past 50 years has been due to increased educational attainment, and mainly among women Source: Barro and Lee, 2013.
  4. 4. Gender difference in performance (15-year-olds) Reading Mathematics Science -50 -40 -30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 40 OECD average Scorepointdifference (boys-girls) Boys perform better Girls perform better Source: Table I.5.8a, I.2.8a, I.4.8a
  5. 5. In science, boys perform better than girls in most of the top performing countries 300 350 400 450 500 550 600 Singapore Japan Estonia ChineseTaipei Canada HongKong(China) B-S-J-G(China) Finland NewZealand Germany Australia Netherlands Slovenia UnitedKingdom Switzerland Belgium Ireland Portugal Denmark Poland Austria Norway UnitedStates CzechRepublic Spain France OECDaverage Sweden Russia Luxembourg Latvia Croatia Hungary Lithuania Iceland SlovakRepublic Chile Greece Malaysia Uruguay Bulgaria CostaRica UnitedArabEmirates Turkey Colombia Mexico Thailand Montenegro Qatar Brazil Peru Tunisia DominicanRepublic Girls BoysMean score (science) Source: Table I.2.8a
  6. 6. In many countries, more boys than girls struggle to reach a baseline level of performance in science Figure I.2.19 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 DominicanRepublic Algeria Kosovo FYROM Tunisia Lebanon Jordan Indonesia Peru Brazil Qatar Georgia Montenegro TrinidadandTobago Thailand Albania UnitedArabEmirates Colombia Mexico Turkey Moldova Bulgaria CostaRica Romania Uruguay Greece Malta Israel Chile SlovakRepublic Lithuania Iceland Hungary Luxembourg Croatia Sweden France OECDaverage-35 CABA(Argentina) Italy CzechRepublic UnitedStates Norway Latvia Netherlands Austria Belgium Switzerland Australia NewZealand Spain Russia Portugal UnitedKingdom Korea Poland Slovenia B-S-J-G(China) Germany Denmark Ireland Finland ChineseTaipei Canada HongKong(China) Singapore Macao(China) Estonia Japan VietNam % Boys Girls
  7. 7. 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 DominicanRepublic Kosovo Algeria Tunisia Indonesia Jordan Peru CostaRica Mexico FYROM Albania Turkey Thailand Colombia Montenegro Lebanon Moldova Romania Brazil Georgia TrinidadandTobago Chile Uruguay Qatar Greece Bulgaria UnitedArabEmirates Latvia CABA(Argentina) Iceland SlovakRepublic Lithuania Russia Croatia Hungary Italy Spain Israel Malta Denmark HongKong(China) Luxembourg VietNam OECDaverage-35 Poland Ireland CzechRepublic Norway France Sweden Portugal UnitedStates Macao(China) Austria Slovenia Belgium Switzerland UnitedKingdom Korea Germany Australia Netherlands Finland Canada NewZealand Estonia B-S-J-G(China) ChineseTaipei Japan Singapore % Boys Girls But in a majority of countries a larger share of boys performs at the top in science. Figure I.2.20
  8. 8. Despite similar average performance in science, boys are more likely to be TOP performers -20 -10 0 10 20 30 Science Interpreting data and evidence scientifically Evaluating and designing scientific inquiry Explaining phenomena scientifically Average Lowest performers Highest performers Boys perform better than girls Girls perform better than boys Source: Table I.2.8a, I.2.16d, I.2.17d, I.2.18d
  9. 9. 99 Aptitude, behaviour, confidence Despite major progress in closing gender gaps, we need to find new ways to address the social and emotional aspects of opening children’s minds to their abilities and future careers
  10. 10. Girls are more likely than boys to have low self-efficacy in science (OECD average) 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 Recognise the science question that underlies a newspaper report on a health issue Explain why earthquakes occur more frequently in some areas than in others Describe the role of antibiotics in the treatment of disease Identify the science question associated with the disposal of garbage Predict how changes to an environment will affect the survival of certain species Interpret the scientific information provided on the labelling of food items Discuss how new evidence can lead you to change your understanding about the possibility of life on Mars Identify the better of two explanations for the formation of acid rain % Boys Girls Figure I.3.20 Percentage of students who reported they could do this "easily”
  11. 11. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 I often worry that it will be difficult for me in mathematics classes I get very tense when I have to do mathematics homework I get very nervous doing mathematics problems I feel helpless when doing a mathematics problem I worry that I will get poor marks in mathematics % Boys Girls Girls are more anxious towards mathematics than boys (OECD average) Source: Figure 3.10 (PISA 2012, ABC of Gender Equality)
  12. 12. In countries where there is a wider gap in self-efficacy in favour of boys, the achievement gaps among top-performing boys and girls tend to be wider Figure I.3.23 OECD average CABA (Argentina) Costa Rica Sweden Bulgaria Romania Jordan Luxembourg Viet Nam Uruguay Poland United STates Norway Chile Denmark Hungary Italy Czech Rep. AustraliaB-S-J-G (China) Turkey Georgia Chinese Taipei Mexico Portugal Iceland Russia Korea Hong Kong (China) Qatar Japan Belgium Israel Trinidad and Tobago Croatia Lithuania FYROM United Arab Emirates Montenegro Algeria Ireland Indonesia Greece New Zealand Colombia Tunisia Peru Macao (China) Spain Switzerland Malta Estonia Lebanon Dominican Republic Netherlands Germany Singapore Slovak Rep. Austria Canada United Kingdom Slovenia France Brazil Kosovo FinlandThailand Latvia Moldova R² = 0.18 -30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 -0.30 -0.20 -0.10 0.00 0.10 0.20 0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60 Gendergapinscienceperformanceamonghigh-achievingstudents (score-pointdifferenceatthe90thpercentile(boys–girls)) Gender gap in self-efficacy (difference in mean index values (boys – girls))
  13. 13. Girls and boys have different interests in science topics (OECD average) Figure I.3.12 0 20 40 60 80 Biosphere (e.g. ecosystem services, sustainability) Motion and forces (e.g. velocity, friction, magnetic and gravitational forces) Energy and its transformation (e.g. conservation, chemical reactions) The Universe and its history How science can help us prevent disease % All students Girls Boys Percentage of students who reported that they are "interested" or "highly interested" in the following topics
  14. 14. Boys are more likely to report enjoyment of science than girls (OECD average) Figure I.3.9 0 20 40 60 80 I like reading about <broad science> I am happy working on <broad science> topics I generally have fun when I am learning <broad science> topics I am interested in learning about <broad science> I enjoy acquiring new knowledge in <broad science> % All students Girls Boys Percentage of students who reported that they "agree" or "strongly agree" with the following statements
  15. 15. 1515 Aptitude and confidence Career choices seem to reflect aptitude and confidence more than performance This is significant not only because women are severely under-represented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields of study and occupations, but also because graduates of these fields are in high demand in the labour market and because jobs in these fields are among the most highly paid.
  16. 16. More boys expect to have a career in engineering than girls while more girls expect to have a career in the health sector than boys Figure I.3.5 5.3 14.4 0.4 0.8 12.2 5.9 4.8 2.1 0 5 10 15 20 ...science and engineering professionals ...health professionals ...information and communication technology (ICT) professionals ...science-related technicians or associate professionals % Girls Boys Students who expect to work as...
  17. 17. Doctors and nurses are from Venus 0102030 UnitedStates4 DominicanRepublic3.7 Colombia2.8 Tunisia2.3 Brazil2.7 Jordan2.1 Canada3 CostaRica2.3 Chile3 Qatar2.3 Lebanon1.6 Mexico2 UnitedArabEmirates2.2 Uruguay3 Algeria2.3 Kazakhstan2.1 TrinidadandTobago4.1 FYROM3.2 Thailand5.2 Australia2.3 Israel2.2 Kosovo1.9 Norway7.2 Portugal3.3 Iceland4.4 UnitedKingdom3 NewZealand3.1 Indonesia3.8 Poland4.3 CABA(Argentina)3.2 Malaysia2.7 Ireland2.5 Spain2.9 Peru2.9 Slovenia3.4 HongKong(China)2.3 Belgium2.5 Bulgaria2.8 OECDaverage2.9 Lithuania4.4 Argentina2.4 Finland3.1 Macao(China)2 Greece2.1 Romania2.3 Latvia5.3 VietNam1.4 Turkey2 Singapore1.9 Moldova2.4 Croatia2.5 SlovakRepublic3.3 Georgia2.4 Japan2.9 Russia2.9 Montenegro2.5 Italy2.4 Denmark3.5 Sweden3.4 Malta1.8 France2.5 Estonia3.8 Switzerland3.5 Austria2.9 Albania1.2 Korea2.2 Luxembourg2.2 Netherlands2.4 CzechRepublic2.8 ChineseTaipei2.8 B-S-J-G(China)1.8 Hungary3.1 Germany2.9 %ofboysandgirlsexpectingacareerashealthprofessionals Boys Girls Girlsare...timesmorelikelythanboystoexpecta careerashealthprofessionals PIF 69 Figure 2
  18. 18. Engineers and scientists are from Mars (for now)010203040 DominicanRepublic… Jordan2.3 Peru2.1 Mexico3.1 UnitedArab… Turkey2.8 Chile2.3 CostaRica2.1 Lebanon2 Qatar1.9 Brazil1.7 Singapore2.7 UnitedStates3.3 Malaysia2.3 Canada2.7 Portugal2.6 UnitedKingdom2 TrinidadandTobago… Colombia1.9 Norway2.5 CABA(Argentina)… Spain2.3 Australia2.9 Austria3.6 Argentina2.1 Malta2.5 Tunisia1.4 ChineseTaipei4.3 Ireland2.6 Italy2.2 Belgium2.6 Algeria2.4 OECDaverage2.4 Albania1.2 France2.6 HongKong(China)… Kosovo1.8 Hungary3.4 Luxembourg2 Kazakhstan2.2 Israel1.7 Uruguay1.6 Greece1.4 NewZealand1.9 Slovenia2.3 Latvia2 Estonia1.6 Lithuania1.3 Russia1.3 Germany1.9 Korea2.2 Switzerland2.2 Macao(China)3.2 Romania1.8 Croatia1.7 Japan4.3 B-S-J-G(China)1.4 Sweden2.2 Iceland1.4 VietNam3.6 Montenegro1.2 Netherlands2.3 Polandn.s. Finland4.5 Moldovan.s. Bulgarian.s. Georgia2.2 CzechRepublic1.8 Thailand1.6 Denmark1.6 SlovakRepublic1.6 FYROMn.s. Indonesia1.7 %ofboysandgirlsexpectingacareerasscienceand engineeringprofessinoals Boys Girls Boys are ... times more likely than girls to expect a career as scientists and engineers Boysare...timesmorelikelythangirlstoexpectacareeras scientistsandengineers
  19. 19. 1919 Closing the gaps What's needed is neither extensive nor expensive reform but a concerted effort by parents, teachers and employers What parents can do
  20. 20. 33 30 33 30 25 24 22 14 7 11 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 Hungary(28) Portugal(27) Chile(28) Italy(24) Croatia(18) Germany(19) Mexico(21) HongKong-China(13) Korea(7) Macao-China(10) Boys Girls Gender gap % Parents are more likely to expect their sons, rather than their daughters, to enter a STEM career – even when boys and girls perform equally well in school Source: Figure 5.1 (PISA 2012, ABC of gender equality) Gender gap among boys and girls with similar results in mathematics, reading and science performance STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Percentage of students whose parents expect that they will work in STEM occupations
  21. 21. 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 Shanghai-China-1.2 RussianFederation… Kazakhstan-1.2 Singapore-2.6 Italy-3.1 Ireland-1.2 Romania-1.8 Estonia-2.2 VietNam Spain-1.8 Australia-1.0 Hungary-1.6 Lithuania-2.8 Poland-2.6 HongKong-China… UnitedArab… UnitedStates-1.8 Latvia-2.1 Albania Netherlands-1.6 Colombia-0.6 Peru-1.0 Mexico-0.6 Macao-China-1.9 Croatia-2.2 Bulgaria-1.7 Belgium-1.7 ChineseTaipei-1.4 Canada-1.8 Greece-1.4 Thailand-2.0 Indonesia-0.9 Malaysia-1.0 Norway-1.0 OECDaverage-1.3 UnitedKingdom-… France-1.7 Qatar-0.3 Uruguay-1.1 Luxembourg-1.1 Israel-1.2 Austria-1.2 Germany-1.7 NewZealand-1.0 Denmark-1.2 Turkey-1.1 Jordan-1.1 Iceland-0.9 Japan-0.6 Serbia-1.8 Montenegro-1.8 Switzerland-1.1 Tunisia-0.3 Argentina-0.6 CostaRica-0.4 Portugal-1.2 Chile-0.5 Slovenia-1.2 Liechtenstein Brazil-0.5 Sweden-1.1 Korea CzechRepublic-0.9 SlovakRepublic-1.4 Finland-1.1 Hours Boys Girls Girls spend more than an hour more per week than boys doing homework, on average Source: PISA 2012, Figure 2.12 (ABC of gender equality) Size of the gender gap (when statistically significant)
  22. 22. Boys spend more time on the Internet than girls Source: PISA 2012, ABC of gender equality, Figure 2.3 0 50 100 150 200 Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls Minutes OECD average-29 … at school … outside school during the week … outside school during the weekend
  23. 23. 2323 Closing the gaps What's needed is neither extensive nor expensive reform but a concerted effort by parents, teachers and employers What teachers can do
  24. 24. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 Magazines Comic books Fiction (novels, narratives, stories) Non-fiction books Newspapers Boys Girls% Boys and girls read different materials when they read for enjoyment (OECD average, PISA 2012) Source: Figure 2.10
  25. 25. 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 Colombia Macao-China Tunisia Brazil Uruguay Argentina Belgium CostaRica Portugal Spain Luxembourg France Netherlands Peru Chile Germany Switzerland Italy Mexico Indonesia Turkey HongKong-China Liechtenstein UnitedStates Qatar UnitedArabEmirates OECDaverage Hungary Austria Latvia Shanghai-China VietNam Canada Jordan Ireland Australia SlovakRepublic Bulgaria Greece Poland CzechRepublic Singapore NewZealand Denmark Sweden Finland Slovenia Estonia Romania Thailand Albania Korea Lithuania RussianFederation Croatia UnitedKingdom Israel Serbia Kazakhstan Montenegro Iceland ChineseTaipei Girls NS Boys NS % Boys are more likely than girls to have repeated a grade (PISA 2012) Source: Figure 2.15
  26. 26. -12 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2 0 Albania Iceland Greece Spain Israel OECDaverage UnitedStates Chile Denmark France Indonesia Peru Bulgaria Macedonia(FYR) Marks given by teacher in reading Gender difference Gender difference after accounting for PISA scores Dif. in marks (B-G) Teachers tend to give girls better marks – despite students’ performance in PISA 2012 Source: Figure 2.16 -8 -6 -4 -2 0 2 4 Albania Israel Iceland Greece UnitedStates Spain OECDaverage Indonesia Bulgaria Chile Macedonia(FYR) Peru Denmark France Marks given by teacher in mathematics Gender difference Gender difference after accounting for PISA scores Dif. in marks (B-G) Boys awarded higher marks than girls Girls awarded higher marks than boys Girls awarded higher marks than boys
  27. 27. 2727 Closing the gaps What's needed is neither extensive nor expensive reform but a concerted effort by parents, teachers and employers What employers can do
  28. 28. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 Yes, at school Yes, outside of school No Boys Girls % Large proportions of both boys and girls have not learned how to prepare themselves for a job interview (OECD average) Source: Figure 4.4 (PISA 2012) Do boys and girls know how to prepare themselves for a job interview?
  29. 29. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 Worked as an intern Did job shadowing Visited a job fair Spoke to a career advisor at school Spoke to a career advisor outside the school Completed a questionnaire to find out about their interests and abilities Researched the Internet for information about careers Went to an organised tour in an institution providing further education 1 Researched the Internet for information about programmes providing further education 1 Boys Girls % Boys are more likely than girls to get “hands-on” experience in the working world (OECD average) Source: Figure 4.2 1. Institutions providing further education are ISCED 3-5 in the PISA 2012 questionnaire.
  30. 30. 250 260 270 280 290 300 310 Japan Finland Netherlands Korea Flanders Sweden Estonia Australia CzechRepublic Germany OECDaverage Austria Canada Poland Norway Denmark SlovakRepublic France UnitedStates Ireland UnitedKingdom Russian… Spain Italy Men WomenMean score The gender gap in literacy narrows considerably by the time people are young adults (16-29 year-olds) Source: Figure 4.15, PIAAC database.
  31. 31. -0.30 -0.20 -0.10 0.00 0.10 0.20 0.30 0.40 0.50 Japan Korea Austria Norway Netherlands Flanders France CzechRepublic Germany Canada Sweden Denmark UnitedStates OECDaverage UnitedKingdom Ireland Spain Finland Australia Italy Estonia SlovakRepublic RussianFederation Poland Reading at work (index) Writing at work (index)Mean index difference (Men-Women) Men are more likely than women to read and write at work Source: Figure 4.19, PIAAC database. Men are more likely to write and read at work Women are more likely to write and read at work
  32. 32. Parents EmployersTeachers Challenge stereotypes about science-related occupations to help all boys and girls achieve their potential Encourage positive attitudes towards learning science among boys and girls. Cultivate boys’ and girls’ interests in a diverse range of science topics. Policies and practices for gender equality
  33. 33. THANK YOU Find out more about PISA at www. oecd.org/pisa • All national and international publications • The complete micro-level database

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