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Girls outperform boys in reading  in PISA 2009+
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Girls outperform boys in reading in PISA 2009+

Research 3 minute read

Results from an international student assessment of reading, mathematics and science released late last year reveal that girls tend to be better than boys at reading, understanding, remembering and summarising information.

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international comparative survey of 15-year olds’ knowledge and skills in reading, mathematical and scientific literacy. It measures how well young adults have acquired the knowledge and skills that are required to function as successful members of society. ACER has led an international consortium of organisations to develop, implement and analyse each triennial cycle of PISA since its inception.

Sixty-four countries and economies originally participated in PISA 2009. Ten additional countries and economies, who were unable to participate within the PISA 2009 project timeframe, participated in the study on a reduced and delayed timeline in 2010. This is known as the PISA 2009+ project.

The PISA 2009+ participants were Costa Rica, Georgia, Himachal Pradesh (India), Tamil Nadu (India), Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Miranda (Venezuela), Moldova and the United Arab Emirates. More than 46 000 students across these ten economies took part in the survey, representing a total of about 1 377 000 15-year olds.

Releasing the results in December 2011, ACER CEO Professor Geoff Masters said the survey found that girls significantly outperformed boys in reading in the PISA 2009+ economies. This was also the case for all 64 countries and economies participating in PISA 2009.

‘Girls not only tended to attain higher reading scores than boys, they were also more aware of strategies for understanding, remembering and summarising information,’ said Professor Masters.

‘Students who are highly aware of effective strategies for learning and who also regularly read a wide range of material, tend to demonstrate better reading proficiency than those who either have a lower awareness of effective strategies or read a narrower range of materials regularly,’ he said.

Professor Masters said that while school-level factors account for a considerable proportion of variation in reading performance between schools, much of this is associated with socioeconomic and demographic factors.

‘This suggests that policies around governance, accountability, the investment of educational resources and the overall learning environment are influenced by the social and demographic intake of the school,’ Professor Masters said.

Professor Masters said schools containing students with higher socioeconomic backgrounds tend to be more autonomous in their decisions about curriculum, make more of assessments for accountability purposes, have better student-teacher relationships and utilise more educational resources. According to Professor Masters, students attending these schools have better educational outcomes.

The results also showed both girls and boys from the PISA 2009+ nations had overall results in reading, mathematical and scientific literacy that were lower than the OECD average.

Read the full report:
PISA 2009 Plus Results Performance of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science for 10 additional participants, by Maurice Walker, is available from

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