Girls Lead in Science Exam, But Not in the U.S.
Girls outperformed boys in majority of 65 countries in which the science test given, but the pattern is reversed in the U.S.
The New York Times has assembled the results of the PISA science achievement test, a test given to representative samples of 15-year-olds in 65 developed countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In the majority of the countries girls outperform boys in science, but the pattern is reversed in the United States where the female deficit in test scores is one of the greatest.
The cross-national variation in the test score gaps – in both direction and magnitude – are consistent with the argument that cultural forces rather than biological determinism keep girls away from scientific careers in the U.S.
The New York Times has a breakdown of the tests and the results are fascinating, though in some ways expected. Andreas Schliecher, who oversees the tests, explained that different countries offer different incentives for learning science and math. In the United States, boys are more likely than girls to “see science as something that affects their life.” He isn’t the only one. “We see that very early in childhood – around age 4 – gender roles in occupations appear to be formed,” said Christianne Corbett, co-author of the 2010 American Association of University Women report “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math” told the New York Times, “Women are less likely to go into science careers, although they are clearly capable of succeeding.”