Boys tend to pay more attention in school when there are girls around, and new research suggests it’s not just about how the girls look.
The study found that young men got better reading marks in school when they were outnumbered by young women in the classroom.
Researchers reviewed the reading test scores of more than 200,000 15-year-olds. The teens came from more than 8,000 secondary schools with both boys and girls. The study found that boys did much better in schools where more than 60 percent of the students were girls.
The study was published recently in the journal School Effectiveness and School Improvement.
The findings suggest that the higher the number of girls in a school, the more productive the learning environment. Previous research has shown that a school’s learning environment has a strong effect on boys.
“Boys’ poorer reading performance really is a widespread, but unfortunately also understudied, problem. Our study shows that the issue is reinforced when boys attend schools with a predominantly male student population,” said study lead author Margriet van Hek, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
“Yet schools can help improve this situation by ensuring a balanced gender distribution in their student population,” she added in a journal news release.
According to the study authors, characteristics commonly associated with girls’ academic behavior — such as motivation to get good grades and strong concentration skills — may help explain their positive impact in the classroom.
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