Published: 28th April 2022
Girls outperform boys in reading, math, science; remain underrepresented in STEM: UNESCO report
The report examines pre-pandemic data and shows that girls in most countries were outperforming boys in most categories
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)'s Global Education Monitoring Report calls for introspection on gender inequality in education that restricts girls from reaching their full potential. The annual gender report analysed data from 120 countries in primary and secondary education.
The report points out the disparity between boys and girls when it comes to Mathematics, especially in the early grades. However, this gradually disappears as the children grow older. The report confirms that even the poorest of countries have done a commendable job of reducing the gender gap, reports ANI. In some countries, the gap has reversed. In Malaysia, for example, girls perform better in Mathematics than boys by Grade VIII by seven percentage points. Similarly, countries such as Cambodia, Congo and the Phillipines report a similar result in favour of girls by three, 1.7 and 1.4 percentage points respectively.
Despite these heartening figures, representation still remains a matter of contention. Boys continue to be overrepresented among the high performers in Mathematics in all countries, says the report. As a result, this impacts overall learning outcomes in girls due to biases and stereotypes. The research examines data released in the last 18 months and happens to refer to the situation just before the pandemic struck.
When it comes to Science, the report finds that in secondary school, girls outperform boys significantly in middle and high-income countries. However, representation for girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields remains low because girls are less likely to opt for careers in Science.
In reading as well, girls tend to go one up on boys, with more girls achieving minimum proficiency in reading. In this area, Saudi Arabia stands out, as the country showed the largest gap in primary education in reading, with 77 per cent girls achieving minimum proficiency, when compared with 51 per cent in Grade IV. Girls outperform boys by 18 percentage points in Thailand, by 11 points in the Dominican Republic and in Morocco by 10 points.
"Although more data is needed, recent releases have helped paint an almost global picture of gender gaps in learning outcomes right before the pandemic. Girls are doing better than boys in reading and in Science and are catching up in Mathematics. But they are still far less likely to be top performers in Mathematics because of continuing biases and stereotypes. We need gender equality in learning and ensure that every learner fulfils their potential," said Manos Antoninus, Director of UNESCO's Global Education Monitoring Report.