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Boys do not benefit from male teachers in their reading and mathematics skills: empirical evidence from 21 European Union and OECD countries
Marcel Helbig
a a

Project Group of the President , Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) , Berlin , Germany Published online: 25 May 2012.

To cite this article: Marcel Helbig (2012) Boys do not benefit from male teachers in their reading and mathematics skills: empirical evidence from 21 European Union and OECD countries, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 33:5, 661-677, DOI: 10.1080/01425692.2012.674782 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2012.674782

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British Journal of Sociology of Education Vol. 33, No. 5, September 2012, 661–677

Boys do not benefit from male teachers in their reading and mathematics skills: empirical evidence from 21 European Union and OECD countries
Marcel Helbig* Project Group of the President, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB), Berlin, Germany (Received 15 September 2010; final version received 22 June 2011) The prevalence of women in the teaching profession has been claimed by various scholars to be responsible for the low school performance among boys. Based on this claim there have been widespread calls for increasing the share of male teachers as a means of improving boys’ school performance. There is, however, very little empirical evidence supporting the claim that boys do in fact benefit from being taught by male teachers. Drawing on data from the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the 2006 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, this paper examines the relationship between teacher gender and boys’ and girls’ respective school performance in a sample of 146,315 elementary school students from 21 countries. It finds that boys do not benefit from being taught by male teachers, neither in mathematics nor in reading. In some countries, however, girls seem to profit from being taught by female teachers. Keywords: boys’ crisis; feminization of school; gender; competencies

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1. Introduction In many countries, there have been debates about a ‘boy crisis’ in their elementary and secondary school systems (Dammasch 2007; Pollack 2006). In fact, girls have become the more successful sex in the secondary and tertiary education systems of almost all European Union (EU) and OECD countries. They have higher reading skills than boys, significantly higher writing skills (Institute of Education Sciences 2009), and even in former domains of male academic achievement such as mathematics and the sciences (Cole 1997) girls have caught up with boys or even started to outperform them in several countries (German PISA-Konsortium 2007). Girls receive higher grades in all of the core subjects (Buchmann, Diprete, and McDaniel 2008; Perkins et al. 2004), have a higher share in the number of students graduating from
*Email: marcel.helbig@wzb.eu
ISSN 0142-5692 print/ISSN 1465-3346 online Ó 2012 Taylor & Francis http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2012.674782 http://www.tandfonline.com

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college-preparatory types of schools (Bacher, Beham, and Lachmayer 2008), and more often choose to attend college or university afterwards (OECD 2009). At the same time as girls’ opportunities for succeeding in the education system have increased compared with those of boys, almost all EU and OECD countries have seen an increase in the percentage of female teachers. In some countries, such as the Baltic States or Bulgaria, more than 80% of all teachers in the elementary and secondary school system are women (Eurostat 2009). Some authors have interpreted this fact as the so-called ‘feminization of education’ or ‘feminization of teaching’, which they consider to be a possible reason for boys’ poor educational opportunities compared with those of girls (see overviews in Dee 2007; Skelton 2009; Stamm 2008). Feminization of teaching refers to two things, both of which are assumed to hamper the cognitive development of boys: first, the numerical domination of female teachers; and second, the ‘girl friendly’ climate of schools that becomes ‘feminine’ (Skelton 2009). Due to these seemingly convincing arguments, some western governments have already started to implement policy programs for increasing the share of male teachers (Driessen 2007; Skelton 2009). This is surprising given that up to now not many studies exist that investigate the thesis of the ‘feminization of education’ empirically at the individual student level (Blossfeld et al. 2009; Driessen 2007; Stamm 2008). The few existing ones mainly do not find any relationship between the sex of the teacher and pupils’ school achievement. But since these few studies are only single-country studies, we do not know whether their findings can be generalized to all other industrialized countries as well or not. Therefore, a comparative study on large number of countries is needed in order to investigate whether the ‘feminization of education’ has its relevance for at the least some countries or whether it is more of an ‘urban myth’. If the latter was the case, the programs to increase the number of male primary teachers in order to fight boys’ underachievement initiated by various western governments have to be seriously called into question. This paper therefore seeks to examine whether teacher sex has an impact on student skills. In theories related to this issue, the main assumption is that it is primarily boys whose educational outcomes are influenced by teacher sex. This point of view, however, tends to neglect the possibility that the current development towards greater educational success of girls in relation to boys may also be a result of a possible correlation between teacher ’s sex and the educational outcomes of girls. In other words, female teachers can also positively influence the educational outcomes for girls. Using data from the 2006 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), this article seeks to examine whether teacher gender

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has an influence on the academic skills of male and female fourth-graders in 21 EU and OECD countries. The specific question that needs to be answered here is whether boys and girls who are taught by a teacher of their own respective sex eventually show higher-level skills than boys and girls who were taught by a teacher of the opposite sex. This empirical question will be explored by analyzing data from a multitude of countries since the current state of empirical research is inconsistent, which may be a result of differences between individual countries. In theoretical terms, however, it needs to be emphasized that theories and research approaches up to this point do not allow for differences between individual countries regarding this question. The following section will provide an overview of current research and explain the implications of the ‘feminization of education’ proposition for the skills development of boys and girls. In subsequent sections, the datasets and methods used for this analysis will be explained, and the guiding question will be tested empirically. 2. Theory and the current state of research There are three lines of argument that consider the feminization of schooling to have a negative impact on the educational performance of boys. The first line of argument points to a lack of male role-models in school (Bacher, Beham, and Lachmayer 2008; Budde 2006, 2008; Driessen 2007; Holmund and Sund 2008; Sommers 2000). Boys’ gender identity formation, the argument goes in condensed form, is a process of separating themselves from the ‘otherness’ of women, whereas girls develop their gender identity by identifying with the mother. Identifying with role-models of their own respective gender is important for both. From this point of view, the main complaint concerns the increasing absence of men in all stages of the education process, which results in a situation in which boys are unsure about their identity, lack clear patterns of gender role orientation (Budde 2008), and, as a result, are unable to form positive ideas of masculinity (Bacher, Beham, and Lachmayer 2008). The smaller the number of male teachers in a school, therefore, the less pronounced should be the development of boys’ academic skills. This kind of argument picks up on the same-sex hypothesis put forward by psychologists who claim that boys and girls are guided by same-gender role-models, which are considered essential for a child’s development (Chambers 1984; Santrock and Warshak 1987). At the same time, gender identification needs to be viewed in a bipolar way. Adults, according to this theory, and specifically teachers in this case, are more able to identify with a child of their own gender, possibly because they feel more competent in responding to their problems, having experienced them themselves (Powell and Downey 1997).

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However, in this context, the same-sex argument fails to provide a convincing explanation of why gender role-models are supposed to impact educational outcomes. Or in other words, in this line of argument the link between the development of gender identity and educational achievement is unclear. And yet this correlation is taken for granted in many articles (Driessen 2007; Sokal et al. 2007) without providing a theory to support it. In contrast to this approach, the present paper seeks to assess whether:
Hypothesis 1: boys acquire better skills with male teachers than they do with female teachers.

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Clear empirical evidence on whether the educational achievement of boys is influenced positively by male teachers has rarely been found (Dee 2007). Most authors do not find any relationship between the two (Allan 1993; Ashley 2003; Butler and Christensen 2003; Carrington and Skelton 2003; Carrington, Tymms, and Merrell 2005; Driessen 2007; Ehrenberger, Goldhaber, and Brewer 1995; Helbig 2010; Li 1999; Neugebauer, Helbig, and Landmann 2011; Sokal et al. 2007). Even when reviewing the same-sex hypothesis with regard to children in single-parent homes living with a same-sex parent, there is hardly any evidence to support the claim that this has a positive impact on educational outcomes (Aquilino 1994; Downey and Powell 1993; Powell and Downey 1997). Despite the scarcity of empirical evidence, however, the feminization argument has had a profound influence on the discussions about gender-specific educational success, thus making a broad international study a necessity. However, if male teachers are supposed to act as role-models for boys and thus influence their academic skills in positive ways, it seems to make sense, vice versa, to regard female teachers as role-models for girls. As a consequence, this would mean that female teachers should have a positive impact on the academic skills of girls as well. If this was the case:
Hypothesis 2: girls ought to have higher academic skills with female teachers than they do with male teachers.

Empirically, Helbig (2010) and Dee (2007) found slightly better reading skills with girls that were taught by a female teacher in Germany and the United States, respectively. Neugebauer, Helbig, and Landmann (2011), however, do not find this relationship for Germany. In addition to the same-sex argument, there are two more mechanisms that are considered part of the feminization of schooling discourse. Since they cannot be tested empirically with the data available, however, they are only mentioned for the sake of completeness. First, some researchers assume that a teacher ’s gender, besides influencing the skills of boys and girls, also has an impact on grading and, in hierarchically structured multi-track school

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systems, consequently on boys’ and girls’ likelihood of being assigned to lower or higher school tracks (Diefenbach and Klein 2002). Second, school itself as an institution is supposed to have become feminized, catering to the needs of girls rather than to those of boys (Bacher, Beham, and Lachmayer 2008; Budde 2006; Skelton 2009; Stecher and Dröge 1996). Both lines of argument are only mentioned for the sake of completeness here and will not be explored further. Looking at data from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, this paper seeks to examine the question of whether girls and boys tend to learn better when taught by same-gender teachers; that is, whether they achieve higher levels of reading and mathematics literacy compared with students taught by teachers of the opposite gender. If correlations can be found to exist in this regard, the increasing share of female teachers in schools would help to partially explain girls’ disproportionately high levels of educational success. The focus on reading and mathematics has been chosen because reading is considered a typically female domain whereas mathematics is considered a male domain (German PISA-Konsortium 2007; Willingham and Cole 1997). In other words, girls generally show higher levels of literacy in reading while boys generally perform better in mathematics. In addition, according to Holmund and Sund (2008) it may be the case that boys and girls tend to benefit most from same-gender teachers in reading, and less in mathematics: if women and men have different ways of communicating and using language, it may be beneficial to have a same-sex teacher, especially in a subject that has its focus on writing and expression. 3. Data To test the proposed hypotheses, the 2006 PIRLS and the 2007 TIMSS will be consulted. The 2007 TIMSS tested fourth-graders from 39 countries to assess their skills in mathematics and science, while the 2006 PIRLS tested the reading skills of fourth-graders from 40 countries.1 In addition, both datasets included the gender of the respective mathematics and language2 teachers. The TIMSS and PIRLS are large-scale assessments of pupils school achievement collected to inform educational policy in the participating countries about the quantity, quality, and content of instruction in mathematics, science and reading. The basic sampling design of both studies was a two-stage stratified cluster design. At the first stage, a representative national sample of schools was drawn; while the second stage consisted of sampling classrooms from the target grade in the sampled schools. Typically, at each grade, countries sampled 150 schools and one or two classrooms at each school (Martin, Mullis, and Kennedy 2007; Olson, Mullis, and Martin

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2008). For more information about the sampling procedure and research design of the 2007 TIMSS and 2006 PIRLS, see Olson et al. (2008) and Martin et al. (2007). I have limited my analysis to EU and OECD countries since these tend to be more suitable for comparison. Countries such as Mongolia or Iran differ too strongly from EU and OECD countries in terms of their culture, their economies, and their school systems to be included in the analysis. Furthermore, countries whose samples did not include a minimum of 200 students taught by male teachers were omitted; otherwise, the number of students taught by male teachers would have been too low to make statistically relevant statements. These countries were, first and foremost, the countries of Eastern Europe, but also Italy, for example. Despite these restrictions, a total of 146,315 students from 21 countries could be included in the analysis: 19 of these countries participated in the 2006 PIRLS, and 14 participated in the 2007 TIMSS. Using the data of fourth-graders is considered a reasonable approach because, across school systems internationally, students still attend the same type of school at this point before being tracked into different kinds of institutions. In Austria and Germany, for example, students are tracked into a number of hierarchically-structured school types after completing Grade Four. This is why it makes most sense to concentrate on elementary school students. What is more, elementary schools tend to be characterized by a comparatively high level of teacher stability. In most cases, elementary schools take great care not to subject their students to a frequent change in teachers for any one subject. And this accounts in part for the major methodological problem that the test administered at the end of Grade Four. The children have gone to school for four years and it is possible that the gender of teacher varies over this time. But in the vast majority of cases the gender of the teacher is the same, like the years before. Data for Grades One to Three or for kindergarten would be a better measure. However, they are not available. If there are two teachers with different gender for one subject, the class is excluded from analysis. In this paper, teacher gender in mathematics and in the respective language represents the key independent variable. In a first step, linear regression analysis is conducted for each country, and for each gender within the respective country separately, to establish whether there is a correlation between the independent and the dependent variables; that is, between fourth-graders’ mathematics and reading skills and the gender of their respective teachers. In this process, results are only controlled for student age, the respective sub-region, and the respective language. The findings from these regressions will be called Model 1 in the empirical section. However, since the gender distribution of teachers is not equal across schools, and other unequally distributed characteristics may also have an impact on students’ educational outcomes, various characteristics of teachers

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and schools need to be controlled for. In a second linear regression, therefore, additional (demographical) teacher characteristics will be controlled for, including age, teaching experience, formal education, existence of a teaching certificate, and workload. The results from these regressions will be called Model 2 in the empirical section. The operationalization of control variables is shown in Table 1. In addition to including teacher characteristics, I performed a third regression including school characteristics that correlate with students’ educational achievement and may have an influence on the gender distribution of teachers. These school characteristics include the size of the community where the school is located, the type of community, the proportion of economically disadvantaged students enrolled at the school, the proportion of students from high-income families, the proportion of students whose first language is the same as the language tested, and the size of classes. The results from these regressions will be called Model 3 in the empirical section. In all of these linear regressions, robust standard errors were calculated to account for potential heteroscedasticity. The students under examination are clustered within their classes, as students within one class or one school are often characterized by a higher level of similarity than students from different classes or schools. Neglecting this similarity may lead to a distortion in standard errors. Calculating for robust standard errors makes a multi-level design unnecessary. 4. Results The question to be answered first is whether girls and boys who are taught in their native language by a same-gender teacher achieve higher reading skills than girls and boys taught by a teacher of the opposite gender. Table 2 shows the coefficient of the extent to which a same-gender teacher influences a student’s reading skills. In the case of girls, a positive coefficient means that students’ reading skills in their native language are higher with a female teacher. In the case of boys, a positive coefficient means that reading skills in their native language are higher with a male teacher. Results show that, when controlling for teacher and school characteristics (M3), girls in Austria, Denmark, and Romania do benefit from a female teacher with respect to their reading skills. This effect, however, is not found in any of the other countries represented here. If you look at the correlation between same-gender teachers and the educational performance of boys, however, none of the countries represented show a significant correlation. What is more, results show that male students in Austria, Denmark, and Romania even tend to have weaker reading skills when taught by male teachers. This finding points to the fact that both girls and boys in these three countries have slightly higher reading skills with

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Table 1. Control variables used. Control variable Test language Coding and explanation This is only relevant for a few countries. In Canada, for example, both English and French were tested. Since language groups in various countries differ substantially regarding their skills and since the gender distribution of teachers also differed according to these language groups, controlling for this characteristic is essential. This was introduced into the model as a dummy variable with the values ‘under 25’, ‘between 25 and 29’, ‘between 30 and 39’, ‘between 40 and 49’, ‘between 50 and 59’, and ‘60 or more’. A linear age variable was not introduced because a linear correlation, if any, between a teacher ’s age and students’ skills may hardly be assumed to exist. This was introduced into the model as a dummy variable and divided along its quintile breaks. A linear variable regarding teaching experience was not introduced because a linear correlation, if any, between a teacher ’s teaching experience and students’ skills may hardly be assumed to exist. This was introduced into the model as a dummy variable with the values ‘did not complete ISCED level 3’, ‘complete ISCED level 3’, ‘complete ISCED level 4’, ‘complete ISCED level 5b’, ‘complete ISCED level 5a, 1st degree’, and ‘complete ISCED level 5a, 2nd degree’. This was introduced into the model as a dummy variable with the values ‘full certificate’, ‘provisional certificate’, ‘emergency certificate’, and ‘other ’. This was introduced into the model as a dummy variable with the values ‘full-time’ and ‘part-time’. This was introduced into the model as a dummy variable with the values ‘more than 500,000 people’, ‘100,001 to 500,000 people’, ‘50,001 to 100,000 people’, 15,001 to 50,000 people’, ‘3,001 to 15,000 people’ and ‘3,000 people or fewer ’. (Continued)

Teacher age
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Teacher ’s teaching experience

Teacher ’s formal education

Teacher ’s teaching certificate

Teacher ’s work load Size of community in which school is located

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Table 1. (Continued) Control variable Type of community in which school is located Percentage of school’s economically disadvantaged students Percentage of school’s students from high-income families Percentage of students whose first language is the respective test language Class size Coding and explanation This was introduced into the model as a dummy variable with the values ‘urban’, ‘suburban’, and ‘rural’. This was introduced into the model as a dummy variable with the values ‘0 to 10 percent’, ‘11 to 25 percent’, ‘26 to 50 percent’, and ‘more than 50 percent’. This was introduced into the model as a dummy variable with the values ‘0 to 10 percent’, ‘11 to 25 percent’, ‘26 to 50 percent’, and ‘more than 50 percent’. This was introduced into the model as a dummy variable with the values ‘0 to 10 percent’, ‘11 to 25 percent’, ‘26 to 50 percent’, and ‘more than 50 percent’. Only for the TIMSS sample. This was introduced into the model as a dummy variable and divided along its quintile breaks. A linear variable regarding class size was not introduced because a linear correlation, if any, between class size and students’ skills may hardly be assumed to exist.

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Note: ISCED, International Standard Classification of Education.

female teachers. In order to analyze whether female teachers in fact have a positive impact on the skills development of girls in these countries, an additional regression was performed across the total sample of these three countries, in order to control for the potentially positive ‘base effect’ of female teachers, which seems to affect the reading skills of boys and girls (Table 3). The first row indicates the respective effect of being taught by a female teacher. This effect is noticeable in Denmark and Romania, but not at a statistically significant level. The third row represents the interaction effect for girls taught by a female teacher. If we include the ‘base effect’ between being taught by a female teacher in Austria, Denmark, and Romania, there is no positive correlation between same-gender teachers and the reading achievement of girls in Denmark. In Austria and Romania, however, girls do benefit from female teachers regardless of a teacher ’s ‘general’ gender effect on reading skills. What this means is that girls in Austria and Romania benefit from being taught by a female teacher with regard to their reading skills. This may not be said about any of the other countries represented here, however. It

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Table 2.
2006 PIRLS Girls M1 9.10 5.08 17.40 1.55 7.31 À4.47 5.10 14.92 À3.77 À1.22 9.00 (6.26) 8.75 (6.10) 40.12⁄ (17.24) 10.52 (13.28) 1.96 (7.28) 1.98 (5.74) À8.26 (9.12) 0.06 (8.18) À1.16 (8.75) 1.94 (7.12) À3.03 (6.31) À4.34 (9.39) 9.42 (5.76) À1.00 (6.15) 5.62 (7.63) À6.80 (6.69) 7.66 (6.12) 6.23 (5.97) À1.23 7.14 (6.86) 0.50 (5.71) À0.64 38.19⁄ (17.17) 29.09⁄ (13.15) À22.22 7.45 (12.05) À1.04 (8.63) À13.50 (7.23) À2.58 (7.09) À1.23 (18.34) À21.78 (12.72) À11.85 4.11 (7.39) À1.64 (7.39) 13.02 (9.34) 0.34 (8.79) (6.33) (4.22) (13.19) (5.13) (5.61) (6.10) (5.45) (8.65) (4.49) (4.77) 12.28 (7.83) 4.38 (4.30) 22.92 (15.91) 6.71⁄ (3.21) 8.99 (6.19) 0.15 (6.13) 2.26 (5.57) 5.64 (À5.64) À2.38 (4.45) À3.80 (5.07) 17.84 (7.16) 3.33 (3.46) 14.54 (14.80) À0.28 (3.56) 14.17⁄ (5.21) 3.37 (4.99) 6.90 (5.28) 7.11 (8.77) n.a. À2.14 (3.95)

Impact of same-gender teachers on the reading skills of girls and boys in 18 EU and OECD countries.

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Description M2 M3 M1 M2

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M. Helbig

Country 64.00 63.96 80.71 69.44 68.25 67.76 62.44 66.95 67.18 50.49 81.41 67.31 87.46 71.99 70.07 62.14 83.55 73.38

n

Mean

Standard deviation

4.81 (6.35) 2.98 (7.57) À1.50 (5.90) À2.18 (3.78) À3.12 (4.18) À3.46 (3.33) À15.72 (21.49) À14.35 (23.56) À2.86 (19.67) À5.82 (5.12) À4.49 (4.76) À0.67 (3.76) À9.05 (7.61) À8.99 (8.60) À13.14 (7.89) À0.72 (7.08) À0.28 (6.42) À2.31 (5.32) À4.80 (12.28) À0.84 (8.76) À3.32 (7.42) À9.64 (6.64) À6.95 (7.63) À6.94 (7.94) 2.03 (4.45) À2.78 (4.27) n.a. 0.18 (4.38) À2.99 (5.26) À4.44 (4.89) (6.86) 0.338 (6.28) (7.62) 1.27 (6.40) (17.41) À13.77 (12.55) (12.69) À1.07 (10.52) 4.03 (7.15) À1.28 (7.07) 5.47 (10.23) 0.05 (8.37) 1.17 (5.73) À3.33 (5.25) À0.56 (7.39) 11.92 (6.94)

Austria 4392 537.45 Belgium 6930 531.66 Bulgaria 3344 552.64 Canada 16208 552.18 Denmark 3348 551.87 France 3473 520.65 Germany 6021 548.82 Iceland 2709 528.68 Luxembourg 4650 555.37 The 2815 550.52 Netherlands New Zealand 4995 540.09 Norway 3928 519.33 Romania 3383 502.16 Slovak 4916 536.22 Republic Spain 3170 515.35 Sweden 3292 549.96 United 4478 544.98 Kingdom United States 4434 539.41 Total 86486

Note: ⁄p <0.05, ⁄⁄p <0.01. M1, only teacher gender, controlled for test language and region; M2, controlled for additional teacher characteristics (age, teaching experience, teaching certificate, formal education, full-time or part-time); M3, same as M2, but controlled for additional variables at the school and class level (percentage of non-native speakers at the school, percentage of economically disadvantaged students at the school, percentage of high-income students at the school, community size, and degree of urbanization). For Luxembourg, school-level values were not available. Values in parentheses are standard errors.

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Table 3. Impact of teacher gender on the reading skills of boys and girls in Austria, Denmark, and Romania, controlled for the base effect for female teachers. Austria Female teacher Girl Female teacher×girl 0.71 (6.57) À6.34 (5.24) 15.37⁄⁄ (5.67) Denmark 11.21 (7.70) 7.51 (7.89) 4.45 (8.28) Romania 14.27 (13.49) À2.93 (7.38) 17.70⁄ (7.87)

Note: ⁄p <0.05, ⁄⁄p <0.01. Controlled for test language, teacher characteristics (age, teaching experience, teaching certificate, formal education, full-time or part-time) and school characteristics (percentage of non-native speakers at the school, percentage of economically disadvantaged students at the school, percentage of high-income students at the school, community size, and degree of urbanization).

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remains unclear why this effect should be noticeable in Austria and Romania, of all countries. In terms of their culture, their economy, and their school systems, they have more in common with some of the other countries selected for this study than with each other. However, one further important result of this analysis is that boys do not benefit from male teachers with regard to their native language reading skills in any of the countries represented here. Results are even more unambiguous when we look at students’ mathematics skills (Table 4). The only country in which girls benefit from female teachers with regard to their mathematics skills is Norway. Boys do not benefit from being taught by a male teacher with regard to their mathematics skills in any of the countries studied. In Norway, boys’ mathematics scores were even significantly better when they were taught by a woman. When eliminating the positive ‘base effect’ of being taught by a female mathematics teacher for Norway (data not shown), it becomes evident that both girls and boys benefit with regard to their mathematics skills from being taught by a female teacher. Beyond this positive ‘base effect’, however, Norwegian girls do not benefit from a female teacher. In other words, girls and boys do not benefit from same-sex teachers with regard to their mathematics skills in any of the countries represented here. As a consequence, the first of our proposed hypotheses, according to which boys acquire higher-level academic skills with male teachers than they do with female teachers, needs to be abandoned both with regard to reading and mathematics skills. Male teachers could not be shown to have a positive effect on the academic achievement of boys in any of the 21 EU and OECD countries that were studied. The second hypothesis, which holds that girls tend to develop higher academic skills with female teachers than they do with male teachers, can be abandoned completely with regard to their achievement in mathematics. Regarding their reading skills, however, a positive correlation for girls who were taught in their native language by a female teacher could be shown to

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Table 4. Impact of same-gender teachers on the mathematics skills of boys and girls in 14 EU and OECD countries.
2007 TIMSS Girls M1 18.95 (10.36) 1.59 (5.92) À2.05 (9.55) 3.89 9.69 5.81 À0.75 (4.31) (6.07) (8.17) (5.28) 4.26 9.42 6.05 À0.43 (4.49) (6.64) (7.72) (5.21) 4.33 3.66 4.57 À0.42 (4.10) (5.78) (6.19) (5.11) 2.80 (4.29) 1.53 (6.53) À2.35 (7.89) À5.10 (5.52) 18.03 (10.53) 4.58 (6.62) À4.55 (8.46) 11.70 (9.59) 4.73 (5.36) À12.76 (7.74) À4.54 (8.82) À1.44 (6.13) À15.45 (9.91) M2 M3 M1 M2 Boys M3

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Description

Country

n

Mean

Standard deviation

81.66 68.41 69.70

À8.12 (À8.12) À10.23 (7.25) À5.93 (6.74) À8.88 (6.38) À14.04 (9.40) À10.32 (9.33) 1.93 (4.66) À1.72 (6.62) À3.22 (7.74) À4.12 (5.75) 1.73 (4.23) 1.38 (6.94) 0.55 (5.51) À4.61 (5.18)

67.70 71.36 65.97 61.03

83.56 77.00 82.19 À6.67 (6.07) À6.14 (6.57) 0.53 (6.82) 5.29 (4.75) À0.40 (7.37) 8.66 (5.32) À8.67 (6.05) À3.14 (6.85) À0.79 (5.82) À0.67 (5.24) À8.65 (5.95) 7.10 (4.88)

6.75 (9.11) 4.11 (8.74) 7.57 (7.21) À9.14 (8.14) À10.55 (7.92) À11.77 (7.59) 31.52⁄⁄ (8.25) 28.03⁄⁄ (7.83) 22.12⁄⁄ (7.12) À22.89⁄⁄ (7.49) À26.04⁄⁄ (8.04) À24.91⁄⁄ (7.08) À17.19 (25.25) À14.87 (23.40) À16.82 (21.43) 6.13 (24.41) 6.04 (22.62) 6.01 (21.00) 13.51 (7.22) 12.93 (7.31) À8.41 (7.19) À4.20 (5.87) 13.51 (7.41) 12.68 (7.60) À7.76 (7.22) À0.29 (5.79) 1.75 (6.69) 7.36 (6.97) À3.58 (5.99) 0.03 (5.39)

64.93 85.81

Australia 3107 520.96 Austria 4208 504.89 Czech 3031 490.55 Republic Canada 11,039 511.82 Denmark 2051 521.03 Germany 3882 525.57 The 2262 535.47 Netherlands New Zealand 2849 501.08 Norway 3223 475.79 Slovak 4309 503.08 Republic Sweden 2757 507.24 United 4943 535.78 Kingdom United States 8489 532.32 Japan 3679 571.32 Total 59,829

75.08 76.39

Note: ⁄p <0.05, ⁄⁄p <0.01. M1, only teacher gender, controlled for test language and region; M2, controlled for additional teacher characteristics (age, teaching experience, teaching certificate, formal education, full-time or part-time); M3, same as M2, but controlled for additional variables at the school and class level (percentage of non-native speakers at the school, percentage of economically disadvantaged students at the school, percentage of high-income students at the school, community size, and degree of urbanization). Values in parentheses are standard errors.

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exist in Austria and Romania. The same correlation could not be shown in other countries, however. The question why this positive correlation was found in Austria and Romania of all countries needs to be left unanswered at this point. 5. Summary and outlook In current debates about educational inequalities between girls and boys, the lack of male teachers is frequently held responsible for the fact that girls outperform their male peers at schools in virtually all countries of the western world. This claim was tested for 146,315 elementary school students from 21 countries using two key academic skills domains. These results lead to the conclusion that boys do not benefit from male teachers with regard to their educational outcomes. Likewise, girls do not benefit from female teachers with regard to their educational outcomes either – with the exception of Austria and Romania, where female teachers are positively associated with girls’ reading performance. Why these two countries stand out should be addressed in further research. However, this study has one main limitation: I cannot use panel data to account for starting scores in Grade One and for teacher ’s gender in Grades One to Three. However, elementary schools tend to be characterized by a comparatively high level of teacher stability. In most cases, elementary schools take great care not to subject their students to a frequent change in teachers for any one subject. And this accounts in part for the major methodological problem that the test administered at the end of Grade Four. Apart from these methodological problems one can conclude that the feminization of (elementary) school has neither led to a weaker educational performance of boys, nor has it helped to improve the academic achievement of girls. At least with regard to elementary schools, therefore, the call for more male teachers to boost boys’ academic performance is not based on empirical evidence. The extent to which a teacher ’s gender has an impact on his or her grading habits, however, or whether teacher gender influences grades and academic achievement at the secondary-school level are issues that could not be addressed by this study. Empirical results from other studies, however, indicate that instruction by same-gender teachers does neither have an influence on student’s received grades nor does it influence the likelihood of assignment to a specific school track (in a hierarchically structured multitrack system) (Bacher, Beham, and Lachmayer 2008; Helbig 2010; Holmund and Sund 2008; Neugebauer, Helbig, and Landmann 2011). What is more, according to a variety of theories in developmental psychology, we must assume that gender identity, as understood in the ‘same-sex hypothesis’ often referred to in discussions about the feminization of schools, is formed in early youth (Hannover 2008; Trautner 1997). As a consequence, the assumed positive effect of same-gender role-models on academic achievement should

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be especially pronounced with younger children, which is why complaints about the absence of male roles are most frequently voiced with regard to preschool and elementary school education (Blossfeld et al. 2009). Powell and Downey (1997), in their studies on single-parent households, are among those who ask why the same-sex hypothesis has been widely promoted with regard to academic achievement even though there is no empirical evidence to support it. A partial answer to this question, according to these authors, might be that the theoretical foundations of the hypothesis appear to be so compelling and significant that many researchers simply did not consider it necessary to test the hypothesis. In light of the findings of this and other relevant studies it has to be acknowledged that the programs some western governments have initiated – increasing the number of male primary teachers in order to fight boys’ underachievement – do not work. Not only are these programs expensive, they have also failed to attract more male primary teachers to the teaching profession (for the reasons, see Skelton 2009). Finally, and most importantly, more primary male teachers do not seem to be the answer for the ‘boys’ crisis’. Therefore, research on the ‘boys’ crisis’ has still much work to do. Obviously, for better understanding the underachievement of boys, there are no simple answers as to why – and no simple solutions, like increasing the number of male teachers. The gender-specific change of educational success is a highly rare case of a changing pattern of stratification. Only by a thorough investigation of the causes and consequences of this pattern will education scholars and governments alike have appropriate instruments at hand to fight boys’ underachievement. Notes
1. The five Canadian provinces were taken together as Canada. England and Scotland were taken together as the United Kingdom. Belgium (French) and Belgium (Flemish) were taken together as Belgium. Subsamples from the United States (Massachusetts and Minnesota) were included in the US sample. All calculations were controlled for the respective regions. 2. English in English-speaking countries, German in German-speaking countries, and so forth.

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