Girls “better than boys” at working collaboratively to solve problems

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A new global report has revealed that teenage girls have the edge over their male peers when it comes to problem-solving.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) evaluated the performance of 15-year-olds in 52 countries, including Japan, South Korea, the UK and the USA.

PISA is known for ranking worldwide performance in reading, maths and science among teenagers.

In a similar test from 2012, boys were found to perform better in individual problem-solving skills.

However, in PISA’s latest round of tests, girls performed better than boys for group problem-solving in every country, particularly the UK.

The group researched 125,000 teenagers to conclude that girls display a more positive attitude towards relationships; they showed a greater interest in other people’s opinions and wanted others to succeed.

Boys were found to recognise teamwork as a tool for working more effectively.

“In a world that places a growing premium on social skills, education systems need to do much better at fostering those skills systematically across the school curriculum,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

“It takes collaboration across a community to develop better skills for better lives.”

The research also found that disadvantaged students are more likely to see the value of teamwork than their advantaged peers.

They tend to report that they prefer working as part of a team to working alone, and believe that teams make better decisions.

Schools with more diversity in their student intake are also more likely to be associated with better collaborative skills, at least relative to performance in the academic disciplines.

UK performed better than expected in collaborative problem-solving, given that it came 27th in maths, 22nd in reading and 15th in science.

In the UK, around 12 per cent of students performed at a top level of proficiency – meaning they could successfully carry out complicated problem-solving tasks, which required them to resolve disagreements and conflicts – compared with around 8 per cent across OECD countries on average.


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