In reading, 15-year-old girls outperform 15-year-old boys (by the equivalent of roughly one year of school), while in mathematics boys outperform girls (though by a narrower margin, the equivalent of less than half a year of school); in science there is instead little difference between boys’ and girls’ performance. Yet dig a little deeper and a more nuanced picture emerges. There are far more boys (24.9%) than girls (12.5%) among the lowest-achieving students in reading, while there are far fewer girls than boys among the top performers in mathematics (10.6% vs. 14.8%) and science (7.7% vs. 9.3%).
There are even larger gender differences in the fields of study chosen in higher education: in OECD countries, fewer than 1 in 3 engineering graduates and fewer than 1 in 5 computer science graduates are girls. This is likely because of stereotypes and expectations, rather than performance differences in math and science. For example, at age 15 far fewer girls (4.7%) than boys (18%)—even among the top performers— reported that they expect to have a career in engineering or computing.
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