Two girls in school uniforms and with backpacksLately, some critics have claimed that education is leaving boys behind, citing the fact that girls outperform boys in school. In a new analysis from the University of New Brunswick, researchers reviewed over 300 studies examining the differences between boys’ and girls’ grades. They found that girls have consistently received better grades than boys. The researchers explained that the so-called “boy crisis,” the claim that boys are lagging in school achievement, is unfounded because girls have been doing better in school for decades.

The researchers reviewed 308 studies spanning the years 1914 to 2011 and incorporating data from over 30 countries. The aggregate sample totaled 538,710 boys and 595,322 girls. Most of the samples (70%) were from the United States, but a many of countries were represented in more than one study, including Canada, Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom. Included in just one study were Hong Kong, India, Iran, and others.

The studies they reviewed evaluated gender differences in grades assigned by a teacher or in grade point averages for elementary, middle, or high school students. They also reviewed studies exploring gender disparities in grades for undergraduate and graduate university students. The researchers excluded studies that relied on self-reports or that focused on a special population.

Girls received better grades than boys in all subjects, with the largest difference in performance in language courses and the smallest in math and science. The gap between male and female student performance increased in the transition from elementary school to middle school, but decreased between high school and college. Although girls got better grades in math and science, boys did better on math and science achievement tests.

The researchers suggest that social and cultural factors may be the cause for the disparity. It could be that parents push girls to study more than boys. There may also be a difference in which learning styles are effective for each gender.

“The fact that females generally perform better than their male counterparts throughout what is essentially mandatory schooling in most countries seems to be a well-kept secret, considering how little attention it has received as a global phenomenon,” commented study co-author Susan Voyer, MASc, of the University of New Brunswick.

This research is published in the American Psychological Association journal Psychological Bulletin.

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