Why some boys can keep up with girls in school

January 17, 2019 | The New York Times

Over all, girls outperform boys in school. It starts as early as kindergarten. By the time students reach college, women graduate at a higher rate than men.

But there’s an exception. Asian-American boys match the grades of Asian-American girls in elementary school, a new study has found. For them, the gender achievement gap doesn’t appear until adolescence — at which point they start doing worse as a group than Asian-American girls.

The study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that boys’ underperformance is not because of anything innate to boys. Instead, it seems, it’s largely because of something external: their school environments and peer influences.

Girls are encouraged to be diligent, cooperative and ambitious — all things that serve them well in school. Boys are more sensitive than girls to environmental influences, according to a variety of research, and they feel pressure to be strong, tough and athletic. They get the message that doing well in school is not masculine, social scientists say. Even in peer groups that prize good grades, it’s considered uncool to seem to try hard to earn them.

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