Cross-Cultural Analyses

The International Assessment of Educational Progress (IAEP) tested the math and science performance of 9- and 13-year-olds in 20 nations around the world. The effect sizes for gender differences for selected countries are shown in Table 2-2 (Beller and Gafni, 1996). Focusing first on the results for mathematics, we see that the gender differences are small in all cases. Most importantly, effect sizes are positive (favoring males) in some countries, negative (favoring females) in other countries, and several are essentially zero. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS, 2003, formerly the Third International Mathematics Study) found similar results, with some positive and some negative effect sizes, and most < 0.10. In the TIMSS data for eighth graders, the magnitude of the gender difference was 0.09 in Chile (country average score 379), 0.02 in the United States (country average 502), 0.01 in Japan (country average 569), and –0.05 in Singapore (country average 611). That not only the magnitude, but also the direction of gender differences in mathematics performance varies from country to country is powerful testimony to the importance of sociocultural factors in shaping those differences. Perhaps most importantly, though, the gender difference is very small in most nations.

Focusing next on the results for science performance (Table 2-2), we can see that the effect sizes more consistently favor males and are somewhat larger, although not large for any nation. When the results are broken down by science, gender differences are smaller in life sciences knowledge (0.11 and 0.20 at ages 9 and 13, respectively, averaged over all countries) and somewhat larger for physical sciences (0.22 and 0.33) (Beller and Gafni, 1996).

TABLE 2-2 Effect Sizes for Gender Differences in Mathematics and Science Test Performance Across Countries

Country

Mathematics

 

Science

 

9 years

13 years

9 years

13 years

Hungary

–0.03

–0.02

0.09

0.25

Ireland

–0.06

0.19

0.20

0.31

Israel

0.16

0.15

0.23

0.24

Korea

0.28

0.10

0.39

0.31

Scotland

–0.01

–0.02

–0.01

0.20

Spain

0.01

0.18

0.25

0.24

Taiwan

0.03

0.02

0.25

0.08

U. S.

0.05

0.04

0.09

0.29

All countries

0.04

0.12

0.16

0.26

SOURCE: Beller and Gafni, 1996, Table 2 and Appendix.



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