PISA gender report ‘reinforces stereotypes’

A major international report blaming girls’ lack of self-confidence in maths as the main reason for their weaker results – without examining other possible causes – has been criticised for its “outdated” views.

The 2015 OECD gender report, which uses PISA data from the same year, reproduced gender stereotypes of “helpless girls” and “and self-orienting boys”, according to a new critique published in the Gender and Education journal.

In doing so, it failed to acknowledge that “in the last decades females have drawn even, and in some states surpassed males” in educational attainment.

The report “blindly” accepted that girls’ lack of self-confidence in science and maths leads to underachievement in these subjects, according to Markus Meiera from the Universidad Externado de Colombia and Heike Diefenbach, an independent social scientist.

Girls are “stereotyped as passively driven by parental, educational and/or general social forces beyond their control”, they claimed.

In contrast, the researchers said the report highlighted boys’ “literacy deficiencies”, but suggested that these are “caused internally”.

“The authors seem to reinforce the stereotype of boys being somehow naturally incompatible with schooling,” wrote Diefenbach and Meiera, who writes for Schools Week this week.

They want OECD PISA authors to “define
and justify” their use of concepts like gender, stereotypes or role models in future, and avoid “theoretical assumptions such as gender innateness” and “interpretative claims, such as speculations on causes”.