The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence tries to determine why 15-year-old boys are more likely than girls, on average, to fail to attain a baseline level of proficiency in reading, mathematics and science, and why high-performing 15-year-old girls still underachieve in areas such as mathematics, science and problem solving when compared to highperforming boys. In 2012, 14% of boys and 9% of girls surveyed by the PISA exercise did not attain the PISA baseline level of proficiency in any of the three core subjects. On the other hand, in the top-performing economies in PISA, such as Shanghai-China, Singapore, Hong Kong-China and Chinese Taipei, girls perform on a par with their male classmates in mathematics and attain higher scores in mathematics than boys in most other countries and economies around the world.
As the evidence in the report makes clear, gender disparities in performance do not stem from innate differences in aptitude, but rather from students’ attitudes towards learning and their behaviour in school, from how they choose to spend their leisure time, and from the confidence they have–or do not have–in their own abilities as students. In fact, the report shows that the gender gap in literacy proficiency narrows considerably–and even disappears in some countries–among young men and women in their late teens and 20s. Giving boys and girls an equal opportunity to realise their potential demands the involvement of parents, who can encourage their sons and daughters to read; teachers, who can encourage more independent problem solving among their students; and students themselves, who can spend a few more of their after-school hours 'unplugged'.