A new study has found that classrooms with greater gender balance can help boys improve their educational performance.
Published in the journal School Effectiveness and School Improvement, the study, by Dr Margriet van Hek, focused solely on boys’ reading performance.
It showed that while boys’ reading performance was generally lower than girls’, classrooms with greater gender balance saw improved reading outcomes for boys.
Boys were more likely to perform well in schools with a higher proportion of girls, shedding new light on why girls continue to outperform boys in many educational subjects.
The research studied the reading test scores of more than 200,000 15-year-olds from over 8,000 mixed-sex schools around the world. The researchers discovered that boys’ performance was significantly better in schools where more than 60 per cent of the pupils were girls.
The implication is that the higher the number of girls in the school, the more productive the learning environment.
The authors suggested that characteristics more commonly associated with girls’ academic behaviour, such as higher levels of concentration and motivation to perform well, may help to explain their positive influence.
“Boys’ poorer reading performance really is a widespread, but unfortunately also understudied, problem. Our study shows that the issue is reinforced when boys attend schools with a predominantly male student population,” said lead author Dr Margriet van Hek, from Utrecht University, based in the Netherlands.
“Yet schools can help improve this situation by ensuring a balanced gender distribution in their student population.”
The results suggest that single-sex schools and vocational education, where subjects are often heavily weighted towards a particular gender, may not be beneficial to boys’ learning. Policymakers should therefore consider introducing measures which encourage more equal gender distribution in schools.
However, the authors called for further research to establish how far the school-level discrepancies are replicated within the classroom, and whether the differences are present in other subject areas.
Read the full study online here:
Do schools affect girls’ and boys’ reading performance differently? A multilevel study on the gendered effects of school resources and school practices
Margriet van Hek, Gerbert Kraaykamp & Ben Pelzer
School Effectiveness and School Improvement Vol. 0 , Iss. 0,0