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Boys become better readers with more girls in classroom – study

Reserachers believe the higher performance of boys could be attributed to the girls' overall higher academic performance.. Source: Shutterstock

The presence of more girls in the classroom may boost the reading performance of boys, a study has found.

The Journal of School Effectiveness and School Improvement in its research on the effects of school resources and social characteristics on reading scores in 33 countries, found that all students had better scores when girls comprised 60 percent of students their classes.

According to Click Orlando, researchers believe the higher performance of boys could be attributed to the girls’ overall higher academic performance.

The study, which measures the academic performance of 15-year-olds in 33 countries, relied on reading test scores from the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment.

Among others, the researchers focussed on how certain factors, including the schools’ poverty level, teacher education and gender makeup, played a part the reading performance of boys and girls.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the higher number of better-educated teachers and socioeconomic composition of schools did not benefit boys more than girls. Instead, the girls appeared to have benefited more than boys when the schools were richer.

Authors of the study say policymakers should encourage better gender distribution in schools. Source: Shutterstock

“Boys’ poorer reading performance really is widespread, but unfortunately also understudied, problem,” said lead author Dr Margriet van Hek, a sociologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands was quoted as saying.

“Our study shows that the issue is reinforced when boys attend schools with a predominantly male student population.”

The researchers pointed out previous studies that the learning environment to be a strong influence to boys and other findings that suggest girls had better levels of concentration and motivation to perform well. These factors could be key to understanding why girls have a positive influence on boys.

The latest research finding comes amid the growing popularity of single-sex school in the US and will likely contribute to the debate on the matter. The researchers said gender separation in schools would not benefit boys, who tend to have issues focusing and were more predisposed to misbehaviour.

This is why the authors of the study say policymakers should encourage better gender distribution in schools.

“Yet schools can help improve this situation by ensuring a balanced gender distribution in their student population.”

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