It’s official: girls are better than boys at tech

Women in Tech

Cue the development of female-friendly video games and gender-normative form factors. Girls are better at technology than boys – at least in the US, one test shows.

According to the US’ so-called Nation’s Report Card, girls outperformed boys in technology and engineering literacy. In the first-ever tests conducted by the country’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), eighth graders of both genders were asked to solve real-world problems using innovative scenario-based multimedia tasks on computers.

Girls surprise

Although technology is often seen as a guy thing, some 45 per cent of girls scored proficient or better on the tests, compared to 42 per cent of boys. The results surprised officials because girls often lag behind boys in the organisation’s mathematics tests. “We did not expect this pattern,” Peggy Carr, Acting Commissioner of the NCES, told the Wall Street Journal.

More than 21,500 eighth graders from over 800 public and private schools across the US were assessed in 2014. The questions required them to troubleshoot issues, generate and analyse data patterns, and justify their decisions with evidence, with the aim of helping them understand how maths relates to real-life situations such as making music, building a car and making apps.

In one example, students were asked to troubleshoot and fix the habitat for a classroom iguana named Iggy. They first learned about iguanas and their basic needs, then worked through the task to determine how best to improve Iggy’s environment.

Home learning

The tests also asked where students learned about technology; more than half did so at home. Almost 50 per cent of students said they hadn’t studied subjects related to technology or engineering.

“We live in a world of rapid technological change, and our nation’s continued prosperity rests on how we can use technology to innovate. Until now, there has been no way to assess this skill,” said Terry Mazany, Chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees NAEP. “This assessment requires students to examine evidence, ask and answer challenging questions, and choose the right tools for the problem at hand. This is the exact kind of thinking that the modern world demands at home and in the workplace, no matter the career path.”

Girls scored better in areas of collaboration, system design and communication using technological tools. “Girls have the abilities and critical thinking skills needed to succeed in fields of technology and engineering,” Carr said.

Similar tests for the UAE aren’t available yet.