Why do girls do better in school in Arab countries?

In the Arab world There is a paradox that we have been trying to investigate for years: girls are less likely to go to schoolfewer opportunities to continue studying, fewer job prospects for adults, but still they achieve much better results than their male counterparts. Of course, it is not possible to generalize and each case is separate, but for example, at the University of Jordan, the largest in the country, women outnumber men by a ratio of two to one and get higher grades in mathematics, engineering, computer science. sciences and other subjects. In Saudi Arabia, women earn half of all science degrees, and in the United Arab Emirates, they are ahead of children in primary school.

A girls’ school in Jordan


According to theeconomist, “Boys’ low school grades are a big brake on Arab economies” and some governments are trying to understand why this phenomenon. The risk, in fact, is to meet uneducated young men looking for work and educated women who cannot work. According to a long article byAtlantic analyzing the problem, the matter is more complicated than it seems. On the one hand, there is the question of motivation: girls seem more eager to study. This is partly because they have fewer distractions because families give them less freedom. “If you’re a kid,” says Madawi Al-Rasheed, the author of the essay A more masculine state: gender, politics, and religion in Saudi Arabia, “You can drive, walk the streets, watch football games.” For girls, however, going out alone is more dangerous, they have to be accompanied by the driver and families prefer to stay at home. “I think they see education as a way out of confinement,” Al-Rasheed explains. In many Arab countries, girls need to be more engaged and the fact that they have fewer opportunities for the future seems to stimulate them: they need to get the highest grades to have a job in the health sector or as a teacher. “A guy doesn’t have to study hard to get a good job“says a Jordanian girl to theAtlantic“But a girl has to work hard to get a decent job.”

because in Arab countries girls do better in school

A male class in Abu Dhabi

Werner FormanGetty Images

There are, however, other aspects to consider. According to a study by the Jordanian Ministry of Education, schools for boys are the problem: more violent (due to bullying and difficulty maintaining discipline) and less motivated teachers. Only 40% of male students surveyed say they think their teachers care how they go to school, compared to 74% of girls. At the same time, teachers tend to be more dissatisfied with their work. “Teachers don’t earn much in Jordan,” he saysAtlantic, “but men are still expected to be the main heads of households. Therefore, male teachers are more likely to do a second or third job as tutors or even taxi drivers to increase their salaries.” Therefore, one of the reasons for the gender gap between students could be the clear division in boys ‘and girls’ schools. In Tunisia and Lebanon, where mixed classes are common, the gender gap in math and science is small or non-existent. It could be a coincidence, but the reasoning, if you think about it, makes perfect sense: it is the different values ​​proposed, the clear division of spaces and roles, the different expectations and opportunities that feed the gender differences. And so the losers are boys and girls.

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