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PISA Results: Girls Lead in Science Exams but not in the US and not in Canada, or do they?

A few weeks ago a colleague of mine shared a NY Times article with me that reported the results of PISA (International Science Assessment) broken down by gender. The paper was very interesting and if you click on the image, you will be able to access it. The authors focused on the fact that in the US the 15 year old girls lagged boys in science (Males 509, females 490). I of course checked Canada right away and we has a similar result: Boys 531 and girls 526. I, however, cannot say if this result is that meaningful for me to claim that we have a problem. A difference in scores in Canada is less than 1%.  I am not that sure that it is such a big deal and we have to be alarmed. For me, it is much more interesting that in Shanghai the boys score 574 and the girls scored 575 – much-much higher than we did (and to me the 1 point gender difference is not that meaningful). While the authors of the paper didn’t give us any information about the standard deviation of the results so we can see if the differences are significant or not, it gave us a very interesting overall picture. It is also interesting that in the Middle East the girls score overwhelmingly higher than the boys.  If you check Eastern Europe, you will see that the girls are doing very well and often better than boys. The questions is WHY? What is happening there? How come we have such a significant difference in science education between countries and within countries? This article raises a few very important issues that require further investigation and I am looking forward to 2012 results…

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