As parents, we all know there is an obvious gender gap.
For a long time parents have suspected there were also some less than obvious differences as well.
These non-scientific observations on gender gap are now backed-up by a variety of medical and educational findings.
Studies comparing the developmental milestones of preschoolers indicate that girls tend to produce words at an earlier age, have a larger vocabulary and show a higher level of language complexity beginning in early childhood. In school-age years, girls out-perform boys in spelling, overall language measures and writing.
This gender gap diminishes as students approach adolescence.
Although researchers have long agreed that girls possess superior language abilities, until now, no one has clearly provided a scientific reason to account for these differences. However, several recent studies show that areas of the brain associated with language work harder in girls than in boys during language tasks, and boys and girls rely on different parts of the brain when performing these tasks.
One study documented the differences associated with age, gender, type of linguistic judgment, performance accuracy and the vehicle used to communicate the words, written or verbal.
For example, girls tend to begin speaking at an earlier age. On the average, girls have a larger vocabulary and show a more sophisticated level of language development, beginning in early childhood.
Experts believe girls displayed a significantly higher activation in language areas of the brain than boys did, and specifically in the areas attributed to abstract thinking through language.
In boys, performance depended on the sensory method used to process the message. When reading words, accuracy depended on how hard visual areas of the brain worked. In hearing words, boys’ performance depended on the demands made on the auditory areas of the brain.
In plain words, girls showed no partiality in learning and testing methods while boys create visual and auditory relationships so that meanings associated with a word are brought to mind simply from seeing or hearing the word.
Girls also continue to earn higher grades in math throughout the elementary school years, but their dominance disappears after about age 15. For boys’ mathematical achievement was significantly related to their spatial reasoning, whereas the girls’ mathematical achievement was related to their verbal skills.
Girls lag behind in spatial-temporal reasoning, or the ability to visualize patterns and mentally manipulate. This ability is important for completing multi-step problems that arise in areas such as architecture, engineering, science, mathematics, art, games and everyday life.
Many early childhood educators concede that preschool and elementary school techniques favor the behavior patterns of girls, who can sit longer and possess better fine motor skills at an earlier age.
Boys, may struggle in lower grades because immaturity, both emotional and neurological. Their brains have not as developed enough to grasp the concepts of reading and writing. Many boys also demonstrate inability to sit still for as long as girls.
So, is there a real or perceived gender gap in education?
Consider these four facts regarding educational gender gap:
- Boys are three times more likely to have learning disabilities, including attention disorders (ADD or ADHD) and exhibit signs of difficulty at an earlier age.
- Speech and language delays, which affect almost 10 percent of children between four and six, is three to four times more common in boys than in girls.
- Girls are more likely to struggle with spatial learning, a key component in math, science and technology.
- Girls are more likely to have generalized anxiety disorder, which seems to develop at about 12 years old. In fact, two out of every three children with GAD are girls. One specific area cited is school, where girls demonstrate greater social and educational anxiety, which effects attitude about and performance in school.
A mathematical gender gap favoring boys appears at adolescence and increases during the high school years, but only in areas involving problem solving (which uses the spatial-temporal reasoning).
While narrowing, boys still maintain an advantage in the area, and consistently score about ten percent higher than girls, on the math portion of the SAT (college admission test).
Experts attribute this to the timed multiple-choice questions, which play to boys’ strengths; they also score slightly better on the math and science sections of national assessment tests.
Girls have narrowed the gender gap in the critical thinking (503-498 average score in 2010) and still out-point boys by an average of 13 points in the writing portion.