With the incredible academic success achieved by our girls every year, it is easy to assume that educational gender inequality is a thing of the past. Girls perform better than boys in the NCEA system, and there are now more women graduating from university than men in New Zealand. But an analysis of anonymous data from Google searches published in the New York Times has revealed concerning information about how parents perceive the academic potential of their sons and daughters.
Parents are two and a half times more likely to ask “is my son gifted?” than “is my daughter gifted?” They are also more likely to be wondering if their son is a genius, intelligent, a leader, and even happy. There are certain searches that parents do make about daughters more often than sons – but only when the focus switches to appearance. For every 10 Google searches asking if sons are unattractive or overweight, there are 16 about daughters.
These findings indicate that even though girls tend to do better academically, boys are still more likely to be identified as gifted by their parents. This acknowledgement of intelligence instils a sense of confidence in boys that gives them the ability to persist in the face of learning challenges. Without this tacit acknowledgement, girls are far quicker to doubt themselves, and so they tend to give up before boys when faced with challenges, making them less effective as learners. With so many statistics proving otherwise, it is a shame that many girls don’t have confidence in their own academic abilities.
At St Cuthbert’s we know that confidence is key to effective learning. Once that is lost, students may stop trying altogether, convinced they can’t grasp learning concepts. That is why we tell our girls how great they are every day and celebrate their personal learning achievements. For some this may be obtaining Dux, for others it may be passing a unit standard they are finding challenging. Our Personalised Learning Centre and dedicated teaching staff often say that Achieveds are just as satisfying as Scholarships when they know a student has reached their full potential. At the end of the day, that is our job, to farewell our students with the confidence and open pathways for them to achieve their dreams.