The Italian National Institute for the Evaluation of Educational System (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 1980-1988
ISBN: 978-84-608-2657-6
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2015
Location: Seville, Spain
In the last 60 years, gender-based gap in students’ achievement received an increasing attention. The assessment of academic performance has warned a significant gender-based difference, with boys that under-perform relative to girls in schools throughout the industrialized world (Legewie & Di Prete, 2012). Nevertheless, usually, an advantage of male students in scientific subjects relative to girls as well as an advantage of female students in reading and text comprehension relative to boys has been observed. The study of differences between boys and girls focuses on the concept of gender, i.e. the set of economic, social, and cultural possibilities connected to gender (Desprez-Bouanchaud, et al, 1987). So, the current challenge is to quantify the extent to which gender-based differences in cognitive development can be explained by inborn or learnt behaviors. In 2008, Guiso et al claimed that «social conditioning and gender-biased environments can have very large effects on test performance» (1164).The aim of this research is to investigate those differences in the Italian context that is an interesting case of study. Italy is a very polychrome reality both in economical and social terms. It is substantially divided in two opposite areas: the Center and the North by a side, and the South, on the other one. In those areas, students' performance are dramatically different.

Those findings could be (at least partially) explained by SES: both the role of the school context as well as gender relations differ substantially between high- and low-income countries. It was verified that «the disadvantages of low SES composition to be larger for boys than for girls because of the evidence that lower SES student bodies create a stronger oppositional culture in male than in female peer groups. (…) female advantage in academic achievement is bigger in schools with a lower SES composition in their student body» (Legewie & Di Prete, 2012, p. 468). By analyzing data collected by INVALSI, a gender-based gap is disclosed, as shown in the following figures. The advantage of male students in Mathematics is confirmed as well as the advantage of female in text comprehension, both in elementary and in high school. The difference between male and female students is statistically significant in both subjects and in each academic level (Invalsi, 2015, p. 71). Moreover, by analyzing the same data in the South, in the North and in Central of Italy, and by comparing them, we can immediatly note that the worst students’ performances (compared to the Italian medium score) is concentrated in the Southern Italy, with few execptions. Results obtained by analyzing Italian data collected by INVALSI confirm that there is a minor female disadvantage relative to boys in schools with a lower socioeconomic composition in their student body. Those findings suggest the need of further research. In particular, as said above, the socioeconomic status is not enough to investigate gender-based difference because other cultural factors, such as the concept of masculinity and femininity have to be taken into account (Legewie & Di Prete, 2012, p. 464).

Therefore, a deeper investigation needs in order to understand if there is a significant association between culture, economy and the perceived concept of femininity and masculinity; and if a statistical association between those ones and students’ performance exists.
Gender-based gap, Education, Achievement, SES, Masculinity, Femininity.