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Why girls routinely get higher grades than boys

The gender gap in maths grades was greater when classes were bigger, and girls were more likely to get higher grades in technical and academic schools than in vocational schools.

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education and school concept - little student girl with test and grade at school
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By Alice Clifford via SWNS

Girls are routinely getting higher grades in school than boys, a new study reveals.

This bias against boys could mean the difference between a pass and a fail in some subjects, and consequently jeopardize their college or job applications.

The results, published in the British Journal of Sociology of Education, show that the higher grading of girls is systemic and is embedded in the whole school system.

This is clear, as when the results of standardized tests, which are marked anonymously, were used, girls typically outperformed boys in humanities, languages and reading skills, while boys did better in maths.

But when grades were awarded by teachers, girls did better than boys in all subjects.

The team from the University of Trento compared the standardized test scores with marks given by teachers of around 38,957 students.

All the students were around 15-16 years-old and all sat tests in language and maths.

The girl’s average grade in language was 6.6 out of ten, while the boys was 6.2. In maths, the average grade for girls was 6.3, and for the boys was 5.9, which is below the pass mark.

Even when a boy and a girl were similarly competent at a subject, the girl would typically receive a higher grade.

The team went on to further research why girls were being graded higher.

Factors they investigated were, the type and size of the school, the gender make-up of classes, how senior or experienced the teacher was, and whether they were male or female.

Yet only two factors were found to have an effect, and only in maths.

The gender gap in maths grades was greater when classes were bigger, and girls were more likely to get higher grades in technical and academic schools than in vocational schools.

The authors of the study suggest that teachers unconsciously reward students who exhibit traditional female behavior, such as quietness and neatness, as those students make teaching easier.

They also suggest that inflated grades in maths are a way of trying to encourage girls, who are often seen as weaker in this subject.

Ilaria Lievore, a PhD candidate in sociology, at the University of Trento, said: “There is a strong correlation between having higher grades and desirable educational outcomes, such as gaining admission to good colleges or having a lower probability of dropping out of school.

“Consequently, higher grades are also correlated with other outcomes, such as having higher earnings, a better job or even higher life satisfaction.”

This is a common theme across Europe, but the reasons could differ from place to place.

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