The UK is failing to give British girls adequate education to compete against their male counterparts in science, according to new research.
A new OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report, which measures the performance of 15-year-olds, shows that the UK has one of the largest gender gaps in the world.
The gap between UK girls’ and boys’ results in science tests is 13 – with boys scoring a mean of 521 and compared to girls’ 508. This is compared with an average gap of just one across the 67 countries that took part in the tests.
The UK falls into the bottom five countries that took part in the Pisa tests – alongside Costa Rica and just above Colombia.
Where boys beat girls by the most
In some countries, girls’ science results were higher than their male counterparts, providing hope for increased gender equality.
Jordan, Qatar and United Arab Emirates were at the top of the rankings – with a score difference of 43, 35 and 28 respectively. In Jordan, where girls beat boys by the highest margin, boys scored an average of 388 in Jordan. Girls, however, achieved 430.
Where girls beat boys by the most
Several countries achieved gender neutral results, where boys and girls scored similarly.
Girls beat boys by a mean of one in Macau, Uruguay, Israel, Singapore and Germany. Czech Republic, Chinese Taipei, Tunisia and Vietnam were similarly close, with boys performing slightly better than girls – by a single point.
“Not determined by innate differences in ability”
The results have raised concerns among experts that the education system is failing to provide girls with the training and support needed for future careers in science and technology industries.
Pisa has found that, in general, girls have higher expectations for their careers than boys; but on average, less than 5 per cent of girls contemplate pursuing a career in engineering and computing. In virtually all countries, the number of boys thinking of a career in computing or engineering exceeds the number of girls contemplating such a career.
In some of the top-performing countries and economies, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, girls perform on a par with their male classmates in mathematics and attain higher scores than all boys in most other countries around the world.
The organisation said of the findings:
These results strongly 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.