New York, Dec 31, 2017: Boys tend to outperform girls in high-stakes science tests, but it is not because they are better students, according to researchers. The study, published in the journal Plos One, showed that performance gaps between male and female students increased or decreased based on whether instructors emphasised or de-emphasised the value of exams.
“This is not simply due to a ‘watering down’ of poor performance through the use of easy points,” said one of the researchers Sehoya Cotner, associate professor at the University of Minnesota. “Rather, on the exams themselves, women perform on par with men when the stakes are not so high,” Cotner said. The findings suggest that changing how instructors assess students could help close the achievement gap between male and female students in some science courses.
The results were based on a year-long study of students in nine introductory biology courses. The researchers found that female students did not under-perform in courses where exams count for less than half of the total course grade. In a separate study, instructors changed the curriculum in three different courses to place higher or lesser value on high-stakes exams (for example, midterms and finals) and observed gender-biased patterns in performance.
“When the value of exams is changed, performance gaps increase or decrease accordingly,” Cotner said. These findings build on recent research that showed that on average, women’s exam performance is adversely affected by test anxiety. By moving to a “mixed model” of student assessment — including lower-stakes exams, as well as quizzes and other assignments — instructors can decrease well established performance gaps between male and female students in science courses, the study added. (IANS)
Eastern European and Central Asian countries must overhaul Soviet-era laws on sexual violence that let rapists off the hook and encourage child marriage and bride-kidnapping, legal experts said Thursday.
Flawed legislation combined with sexist attitudes across the region mean girls and women are often blamed for provoking sexual violence and may be pressured to reconcile with their attackers or even marry them.
“Many of these laws deny justice to survivors of sexual violence rather than bringing their attackers to justice,” said Tamar Dekanosidze, a human rights lawyer in Georgia. “It’s important that countries fix these laws and end widespread impunity.”
No requirement to investigate
In 10 of the 15 former Soviet Union countries there is no automatic requirement for the authorities to investigate and prosecute sexual violence, according to a study by Equality Now, meaning the burden of pursuing justice lies with the victim.
Police often deter victims from initiating cases, Dekanosidze said. Victims also frequently face pressure from the perpetrator, his family or even their own family to drop claims.
Nine of the countries — Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia — allow reconciliation for sexual violence crimes, according to the study published Thursday.
In some cases a perpetrator may persuade a victim to reconcile by paying her money or promising to marry her to avoid social stigma, said Dekanosidze, the report’s co-author.
Modernize rape laws
Equality Now, which will be writing to ministers across the region, also urged countries to amend laws that define rape as sex with violence or the threat of violence.
The report comes a week after Ukraine became the first country in the region to change its law to define rape as sex without consent, following in the footsteps of countries like Sweden and Iceland.
There is no reliable data on the prevalence of sexual violence in the region, but U.N. data suggests a third of women worldwide have suffered sexual or physical violence.
The report also said sexual violence usually went unpunished in bride kidnappings and child marriages, which still happen in some Eurasian countries.
Marriage after rape
Child marriages are illegal in all 15 countries, but may be encouraged if a girl is raped to prevent public shame.
Rape is not investigated in such situations, meaning the forced marriage effectively exonerates the rape, the study said.
Dekanosidze cited the case of a 15-year-old girl in Georgia who was raped by two men. When the teenager reported the attacks, her family forced her to marry one of her rapists.