For all those sick of hearing about how great Finnish schools are, here’s a fun fact from the new Brown Center Report: Finnish girls do well in reading, but boys do not. The gender gap is “an astonishing 62 points,” writes Tom Loveless. That’s twice the U.S. gap.
Finnish girls scored 556, and boys scored 494. To put this gap in perspective, consider that Finland’s renowned superiority on PISA tests is completely dependent on Finnish girls. Finland’s boys’ score of 494 is about the same as the international average of 496, and not much above the OECD average for males (478). The reading performance of Finnish boys is not statistically significantly different from boys in the U.S. (482) or from the average U.S. student, both boys and girls (498).
. . . Consider that the 62 point gender gap in Finland is only 14 points smaller than the U.S. black-white gap (76 points) and 21 points larger than the white-Hispanic gap (41 points) on the same test.
Finland’s PISA success has been cited by advocates of various policies such as “teacher recruitment, amount of homework, curriculum standards, the role of play in children’s learning, school accountability, or high stakes assessments,” writes Loveless.
Advocates pound the table while arguing that these policies are obviously beneficial. “Just look at Finland,” they say. Have you ever read a warning that even if those policies contribute to Finland’s high PISA scores—which the advocates assume but serious policy scholars know to be unproven—the policies also may be having a negative effect on the 50 percent of Finland’s school population that happens to be male?
Usually, critics care whether a policy hurts some social groups, even it benefits others, he writes.
Where is the reading gender gap relatively small? Japan and South Korea.