UK boys leave girls behind in maths and science

Ashley Kirk
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Girls feel "anxious" when they're asked to solve mathematical problems, the research found (Source: Getty)

Girls in the UK are getting left behind by their male counterparts in science and maths, according to new research.

Despite girls performing well in reading, the United Kingdom fails to give them adequate education in science and mathematics. The gender gap in science education is particularly poor, with the UK being among the worst in the world, according to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The report is based on the Pisa tests, which ranks countries based on 15-year-olds' performances in mathematics, reading and science.

The gender gap in science

The United Kingdom's gender gap in science tests is among the widest in the world, with boys scoring on average 13 points higher than girls. This is compared with an average of just one across the 67 countries who took part in the Pisa tests.

In the UK, the mean score for boys is 521, compared with just 508 for girls. The difference falls in the bottom five ranked countries - alongside Costa Rica and just above Colombia.

In some countries, girls' science results outperformed their male counterparts. Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates had the largest gender gaps in favour of girls - with a score difference of 43, 35 and 28 respectively.

The gender gap in mathematics

The UK's gender gap also performed below the OECD average for mathematics education. Boys outperform girls in maths by an average of 13 points.

Colombia has the largest gender gap, with boys' mean scores being 25 points higher than their female counterparts. The average across the countries ranked by the OECD was 11.

Again, Middle Eastern countries had the largest female-biased gender gaps, with girls in Jordan and Qatar scoring on 21 and 16 points higher than boys, respectively.

The findings also reveal that girls in the UK do not enjoy maths and are anxious when asked to solve mathematical problems.

Pisa found that, in general, girls have higher expectations than boys for their careers. However, less than five per cent of girls contemplate a career in engineering or computing.

When publishing the report, Pisa said that the results suggest that:

Gender gaps in school performance are not determined by innate differences in ability. A concerted effort by parents, teachers, policy makers and opinion leaders is needed if both boys and girls are to be able to realise their full potential and contribute to the economic growth and well-being of their societies.

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