Gender Differences in Academic Achievement

This paper attempts to examine some likely contributing factors to the observable differences in academic achievement on the basis of gender. In its context, four factors will be analyzed using research conclusions drawn by various authors. This paper gives consideration to these main aspects that have been thought to influence academic achievement by previous research and maintains its uniqueness by its choice of aspects that have not been considered in unison before. The aspects that will be discussed in this paper will be; Innate intelligence, emotional maturity, cognitive ability and socio-economic background.

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Since the beginning of the 20th century, researchers have expressed a consensus in the opinion that the superiority of males over females on the basis of innate intelligence is almost negligible for practical reasons. These positions by a variety of researchers seem to reassert the position held by Terman in his research done in 1916. This consensus experienced a slight disruption when Lynn (1999), posited that the findings in her research showed that males and females have a negligible difference in innate intelligence up to the age of 16, from where, the intelligence quotient of males grows by up to five points and this growth culminates upon attaining adulthood. The ideas expressed in this research received overwhelming objection from the research work that followed their publication. Despite this objection, this research raises a question in the mind of an unbiased observer. Is there really a difference in innate intelligence between the sexes or is there a variation in excellence that makes females excel in some tasks more than others? A research done by Morris, in 1959, posits that the differences in performance between the sexes only become apparent in the college and graduate level and it is only at this level that the significance in those differences can be utilized to inform the thesis that males demonstrate a higher level of innate intelligence than females. In the college and graduate level, females demonstrate a higher level of academic achievement than females due to the specificity provided for by the post-high school education and this shows that it is not that males have a higher level of intelligence than females, it is that the female capacity to outshine her male counterpart can only be demonstrated if they are allowed to compete on specific tasks rather than on a broader sense.

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On the basis of emotional maturity, females have been known to mature faster than their male counterparts. This is due to the capacity of the female brain to establish connections faster than the male brain via the process of preferential detachment. This faster progression to emotional maturity has a significant influence on learning. A study conducted on three hundred male students in Meerut city, conclusively demonstrated that students with a high level of emotional maturity scored higher on tests than those with lower levels of emotional maturity (Kumari & Reena, 2012).This influence can be seen in the high performance witnessed in school-based exams compared to the significantly lower performance witnessed in national exams and it can be posited that this disparity is directly correlated to the emotional instability experienced by high school going teenagers during this period. It therefore, stands to reason that females should exhibit better levels of academic achievement compared to their male counterparts but this is not always the case. This can be due to the fact that excellence in education is an interplay of various factors and gender cannot conclusively determine whether an individual will excel in their studies or not. If this were so, there would be an absence of the lower performance gender in all fields requiring a high level of academic achievement, but this is not the case.

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On the basis of cognitive ability, there has been a direct correlation of aspects of cognitive ability such as; sustained attention and the function of language that is naming, to academic excellence. Cognitive ability is used in reference to the mental processes that occur from the reception of stimuli to the response generated after this reception. Due to the higher rate of cognitive ability development via the process of preferential detachment, females demonstrate higher attention spans compared to male and higher retention capacities. This can be demonstrated in the research presented by Kaplan et al in 1983 that demonstrated that the capacity for visual retention and excelling in the naming function of language will directly correlate to a slight to moderate increased academic performance. Further research by Leon, in 2008, showed that the ability to maintain uninterrupted attention to a particular subjects is associated with more effective responses to a particular stimuli due to the increased efficacy in allocation of cognitive resources and enables the sustainability of performing the task at hand with a higher capacity to respond to its complexity by increasing the pace or strength utilized in performance (Leon, 2008). It is on this basis that the higher cognitive ability of females comes in to improve their academic performance in subjects that require long hours of concentration, with many aspects requiring the use of memory as opposed to spatial intelligence.

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The fourth and final basis upon which these differences will be discussed is that of economic status. According to research conducted by Young and Fisler in the year 2000, males scored higher than females in SAT exams in the United States. However, upon considering this difference in performance from a socio-economic point of view it was found that socio-economic status greatly affected academic excellence in females as compared to males, with females from low-income backgrounds performing lower than males on tests (Dhami, 1974).

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To conclude, the different aspects that influence academic achievement affect each gender differently. It would be incorrect to assume that people perform poorly in tests because they belong to a particular gender. The interplay of various factors in an individual will determine his/her capacity to demonstrate a high level of achievement in class. The efficacy of the research conducted on school going children to determine that factors that affect their academic success can only be proven upon examination of the student that can ensure all the interfering factors that are not in the context of the research remain constant during the administration of tests to ensure a low margin of error. Unfortunately, no such student will ever exist.

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