The results for Leaving Certificates have arrived, and girls in Ireland have scored higher in all subjects. This imbalance is not new or unique to Ireland. This imbalance has existed for several years in many countries, including the US, Canada, and the UK.
Why are girls scoring higher than boys on Leaving Certificates?
Girls and boys score similarly on IQ tests, which makes it unlikely that girls are naturally more intelligent than boys. However, they consistently do better than their male peers academically. School success requires much more than intelligence alone. High scores require study & hard work, and this is where girls may gain an advantage. Girls read more, are more attentive in class, take better notes, spend more time on homework, and show remarkable persistence on tedious or frustrating tasks. They are also less likely to behave poorly in school. All of these characteristics are required to do well in school.
Why are girls more academic?
Many factors are at play, such as biology, environment, and cultural differences at home. For example, parents tend to watch girls progress more than boys, check their homework, and correct mistakes. Parents are also more inclined to see girls' success due to effort, but boys' success to ability. Such parental attitudes may lead girls to put more excellent value on working hard and studying. Conversely, boys' belief that they lack ability affects their school performance. Some research suggests that from a very young age, boys expect to do worse in school than girls. However, girls by age 4 believe they know more than boys and understand the material better. These kinds of beliefs about oneself are powerful and drive behaviour.
What does this mean for boys?
We do not know with certainty why boys underperform academically. It could be that these different beliefs and academic efforts play only a minor role in their test performance. Perhaps there is an entirely different cause that we have not yet considered. We also don't know how to help boys succeed as girls do. However, we know that if steps are not taken to address this academic gap, boys will continue to underperform. Research is needed to determine why this gap exists and what we can do to bridge it. Answering these questions is vital to ensure that both boys and girls succeed academically.