Why do girls outperform boys at school?

Last updated 07:30 02/04/2012

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Girls continue to outperform boys at high school and experts say there is no definitive answer why.

Last year's NCEA figures from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, released last week, show about 10 per cent more Year 13 girls gained university entrance compared with their male counterparts.

Girls outperformed boys in most categories though more Year 12 boys gained university entrance than girls.

Wellington College headmaster Roger Moses said he suspected girls were better at working consistently through the year while boys did better at one-off exams such as scholarship tests.

"What we are seeing is an international phenomenon. It's not something that is singular to New Zealand.

"It's a question people have been asking year after year."

The 2011 scholarship figures between boys and girls were more equal with boys outperforming girls in several categories.

Mr Moses said more research was needed as to why boys could match or better girls in the very top levels but lagged in other areas.

Social researcher Paul Callister agreed the top level scholarships had always been male-dominated while girls tended to do better at every other level.

"All you can really say from the literature is that there's a lot of theories."

While girls were pushing harder into traditional male occupations, boys were not moving into traditional women's occupations such as nursing, Dr Callister said.

"I think there's a real issue around what's going to happen to the low skilled men or young guys."

NZQA figures also showed ethnicity gaps in the results, with Maori and Pasifika pupils performing at a lower rate than European or Asian pupils.

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