Girls have a Positive Influence on Boys in the Classroom

A November 2017 study published in the Journal of School Effectiveness and School Improvement found after analyzing data from 200,000 15-year-old students in 33 countries, that students from low-poverty areas taught by teachers with a four-year degree had higher reading scores. No surprise there.

ThinkstockPhotos dv1940072lrBut what has raised a few eyebrows, and may give parents a reason to think twice before moving their child to a single-gender school, was the conclusion that co-ed classrooms that consisted of at least 60 percent girls, all students, including boys, scored higher than when in male dominated classrooms.

“Boys’ poorer reading performance really is a widespread but unfortunately also understudied problem,” said Margriet van Hek, the lead study author and a sociologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “Our study shows that the issue is reinforced when boys attend schools with a predominantly male student population.”
Characteristics more commonly associated with female students were higher concentration levels and motivation to perform well. These factors could explain why girls have a positive influence on boys. “In short, girls make for a more stimulating learning environment,” said van Hek.

Though the latest research comes amid the growing popularity of single-sex schools in the U.S., researchers concluded gender separation in schools would not benefit boys, who tend to have issues focusing and were more predisposed to misbehavior when in all-male classrooms.

This is not the first study to draw this conclusion, as a 2008 Tel Aviv University study found that girls in the classroom improve boys’ grades markedly at school and a higher percentage of girls fosters a better relationship between students and teachers. The study also concluded that the improved grades were not just limited to reading, but academic subjects across the board.

—Joyce Heid

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