Shalom Life | April 12, 2015

Tel Aviv Study: Teachers' Gender Bias Discourages Girls From Pursuing Math, Science

Could elementary school be the critical juncture at which girls are discouraged from pursuing science and mathematics?

By: NoCamels Team

Published: April 8th, 2015 in Culture » Society » News

It’s a fact: Women are vastly underrepresented in the fields of computer science, engineering, and mathematics. But less clear are the trajectories — academic and otherwise — that lead young women toward other professions. Higher education has already opened the door to equal opportunities for women and minorities in the US — so is it possible that elementary school, as a new Tel Aviv University study suggests, is the critical juncture at which girls are discouraged from pursuing science and mathematics?

New research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that elementary school teachers’ unconscious biases significantly influence female students’ academic choices later on. According to researchers Dr. Edith Sand and Prof. Victor Lavy, the classroom teacher’s unwitting prejudice is a key factor explaining the divergence of boys’ and girls’ academic preferences.

“It isn’t an issue of discrimination but of unconscious discouragement,” said Dr. Sand. “This discouragement, however, has implications. The track to computer science and engineering fields, which report some of the highest salaries, tapers off in elementary school.”

Taking the gender test

The research was carried out on three groups of students in Israel from sixth grade through the end of high school. The students were given two exams, the first graded by objective scorers who did not know their names and the second by instructors who did know them. In math, the girls outscored the boys in the test that was scored anonymously, but when graded by teachers who were familiar with their names, the boys outscored the girls. The effect was not the same for tests in non-math or science-related subjects.

This article was first published on NoCamels - Israeli Innovation News and was re-posted with permission. To continue reading this article on the site, click here.

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