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女生不擅長數學?原因可能是閱讀能力太強

2019-12-30 09:04:37  每日學英語

Are good readers more likely to give up on maths?

女生不擅長數學?原因可能是閱讀能力太強

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The gender gap in maths-related subjects is proving stubbornly persistent. In almost all countries, far fewer women than men choose to pursue potentially lucrative careers in maths, physics, engineering and computer science. While initiatives such as providing girls with mentors and role models, and taking steps to tackle stereotypes and unconscious gender biases, can be helpful, their effects are often small. At the current rate of change, women are likely to remain outnumbered in maths-related fields for decades to come.

與數學相關的學科一直頑固存在著性別差距。在幾乎所有國家,選擇數學、物理、工程和計算機這些職業前途很好的專業的女性遠遠少于男性。盡管為女孩提供導師和榜樣、采取措施消除刻板印象和無意識的性別偏見等舉措可能有所幫助,但影響往往很小。按照目前的變化速度,未來幾十年里,女性在數理化相關領域的人數可能仍將處于劣勢。

It’s not that girls and women are bad at maths. While boys do tend to perform better than girls in maths tests, the average gender difference is small. In the UK in 2019, for example, 39% of 18-year-old girls who studied maths at A-level achieved an A or A*, compared to 42% of boys. For A-level physics, 29% of girls achieved the top two grades, compared to 28% of boys. But in both subjects, boys heavily outnumbered girls – by more than 3:1 in the case of physics. So why are so many girls turning their backs on these subjects?

這并不是說女孩和女性不擅長數學,數理化成績不好。雖然男孩在數學考試中往往比女孩表現得較好,但平均性別差異很小。例如,2019年英國A-level考試,學習數學的18歲女孩有39%的人獲得了A或A*的成績,而男孩為42%,略高一點。在A-level物理科考試中,29%的女生取得了前兩個等級的高分,而男生只有28%。但選學這兩門科目的男生人數都遠遠超過女生,在物理上,男女比例超過了3:1。那么,為什么有那么多的女孩對物理數學不感興趣呢?

A study published recently in the journal PNAS suggests that the answer may in fact lie in male-female differences in academic ability, but the ability in question is reading, not maths. Studies have consistently shown that girls and women outperform their male counterparts in reading and writing. They may also be better at acquiring foreign languages.

最近發表在《美國國家科學院院刊》(PNAS)上的一項研究表明,問題的答案實際上可能在于男女在學術能力上的差異,但這項存在性別差異的學術能力是語言閱讀能力,而非數學能力。研究一直表明,女孩和女性在語文閱讀和寫作方面要優于男性。女性學習掌握外語的能力也可能較強。

Thomas Breda, at the Paris School of Economics, and Clotilde Napp, at Paris Dauphine University, wondered whether this male-female difference in reading could help explain the gender gap in STEM careers. Could it be that girls are not being pushed out of maths, so much as being pulled into fields that allow them to use their superior language skills?

巴黎經濟學院(Paris School of Economics)的學者托馬斯•布雷達(Thomas Breda)和巴黎多芬大學(Paris Dauphine University)的克洛蒂爾德•納普(Clotilde Napp)想知道,男女在閱讀方面的差異是否能夠用來解釋理工科(STEM)職業領域中的性別差異。涉獵數學的女性較少,是否并非因為女性數學才能不行,而是因語言技能比男性要出色?

 

‘Consider relative strengths instead of absolute ability’

“考慮相對優勢而不是絕對能力”

Every three years, hundreds of thousands of 15-year-olds in more than 60 countries take part in the PISA study, run by the OECD. Students complete tests in maths, reading and science, and answer questions about their future career intentions. When Breda and Napp looked at the data from PISA 2012, they realised they were on to something.

每三年一次,有60多個國家數十萬15歲青少年參加由聯合國經合組織(OECD)舉辦的國際學生能力評估測試(PISA)。這些學生接受數學、閱讀和科學的測試,并回答有關他們未來職業意向的問題。當布雷達和納普看到2012年的PISA 的測試數據時,他們意識到他們發現了一些東西。

“There were small gender gaps in maths performance at 15 years old, but these gaps were too small to explain the huge gender segregation in STEM,” says Breda. But for reading, the tables were turned; the girls were much better than the boys. As a result, when a boy and a girl had similar scores in maths, the girl usually had an even better score in reading.

布雷達說,“15歲學生在數學成績上男女生差別很小,由于差別太小,不足以解釋為何在后來理工科職業領域方面性別差異會那么大。”但當他們查看語文閱讀成績數據,則發現情況逆轉,女生成績比男生要好得多。結果是,如果一個男孩和一個女孩的數學成績相近,這位女孩通常在語文閱讀分數上比這位男孩要高一些。

When Breda and Napp compared each student’s scores in reading and maths, they found that this ‘difference score’ accurately predicted how likely that student was to plan to pursue further studies in maths. The greater a student’s advantage in reading, the less likely they were to plan a career in maths, even when their maths score was also high. Notably, this was true for both boys and girls. “Nothing is gender specific,” says Breda. “That’s what makes these results interesting. You can explain much of the difference between boys and girls [in career choices] with the difference between their grades in maths and reading.”

布雷達和納普比較了每個學生在閱讀和數學方面的分數后發現,這個“差異分數”能準確預測某位學生打算繼續學習數學的可能性有多大。如果學生在閱讀方面的優勢越大,他們就越不可能在數學方面規劃自己的職業生涯,即使他們的數學成績也很高。值得注意的是,男孩和女孩都是如此。布雷達說,“沒有什么是性別特定的。這就是讓結果顯得有趣的原因。你可以用男孩和女孩在數學和閱讀方面的成績差異來解釋后來他們職業選擇上的差異。”

Other experts who have examined the shortfall of women in the physical sciences agree that this is a plausible explanation for the observed occupational trends. “It makes a lot of sense,” says Sarah Cattan, associate director and head of the Education and Skills sector at the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London. “It shows that what matters most when boys and girls choose their field of study is not how good they are in maths or in reading, but how good they are in maths relative to reading. So this is really a story about comparative advantage rather than absolute advantage.”

研究女性比較少涉獵自然科學領域的其他一些專家對此解釋表示認同,認為是對人們所觀察到的職業性別趨勢的一種合理解釋。倫敦財政研究所(Institute for Fiscal Studies)副主任、教育和技能部門主管莎拉•卡坦(Sarah Cattan)說,“這很有道理。他們的研究說明,男生和女生選擇自己的研究領域時,最重要的不是他們在數學或閱讀方面有多好,而是他們自己的數學成績與閱讀成績相比是較好還是較差。所以這是一個關于比較優勢而不是絕對優勢的故事。”

Lise Eliot, professor of neuroscience at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago, agrees. “It makes sense, and prior research supports, that in a competitive academic environment, students would consider their relative strengths as opposed to their absolute math ability when making career decisions.”

芝加哥羅莎琳富蘭克林醫學與科學大學的神經科學教授麗絲?艾略特(Lise Eliot)也表示贊同說,“在競爭激烈的學術環境中,學生在做職業決定時,會考慮自己的相對優勢,而不是絕對的數學能力,這是有道理的,而且之前的研究也支持這一點。”

 

How you perceive your abilities matters

如何看待自己的能力很重要

However, she adds that test scores are probably not the only factors on which the students are basing their choices. “Such decisions are always made in a social context that includes inter-student competition and gender role conformity. How do boys who are good at maths but not so good at reading project their prowess in the math classroom, for example? And are ‘relative strengths’ reinforced by teacher bias?”

不過她補充說,考試分數可能不是學生做出選擇的唯一因素。“職業的選擇通常有其社會背景,包括學生間的競爭和性別角色的社會一致性認定。例如,數學好但閱讀不好的男孩如何在數學課堂上展示他們的才能?老師的偏見是否強化了這種‘相對優勢’?”

Parents and teachers may also treat boys and girls differently, often without realising it, because of the ingrained stereotype that reading is for girls and maths is for boys. One study showed that primary school teachers overestimated the performance of boys in maths and science but underestimated that of girls, for example, while findings of another suggested that parents may read more to their preschool daughters.

家長和老師對待男生和女生的態度也不一樣,他們往往沒有意識到這一點,因為有一種根深蒂固的成見,認為閱讀是女孩的事,數學是男孩的事。例如,一項研究表明,小學教師高估了男孩在數學和科學方面的表現,但低估了女孩的數理化表現,而另一項研究表明,父母可能會給學齡前的女兒讀較多的書。

Whether there are also innate differences in male and female brains that predispose boys and girls to acquiring different skill sets is controversial. In any case, differential socialisation of boys and girls begins at a young age, and can influence how individuals perceive their own abilities and how much they invest in different subjects. “If you take girls and boys that perform similarly in maths, the girls will be much more likely than the boys to think that they perform poorly,” says Breda. This is partly because they have internalised the stereotype that maths is not for them, but also because we all judge our ability in maths by comparing it to our ability in reading, he adds.

男性和女性的大腦是否也存在先天差異,使得男孩和女孩會比較偏向于不同的技能,這是有爭議的問題。無論如何,男孩和女孩的社會角色分化在他們年齡很小的時候就已開始,這可能會影響到他們個人如何看待自己的能力,以及他們決定在不同學科上投入多少努力。布雷達說,“如果把數學成績相似的女孩和男孩放在一起,女孩會比男孩更有可能認為她們數學成績不好。”他補充說,部分原因是女孩已經將數學不適合女性的刻板偏見內化到自己意識中,另一個原因是我們評判自己的數學能力,是與自己閱讀能力作比較而言。"

None of this means that we should stop efforts to counter stereotypes about girls’ aptitude for maths and science versus reading. But it does suggest that much of the impact of these stereotypes occurs not at the point at which girls choose a career, but many years earlier. By encouraging girls to engage more in reading than in maths, stereotypes help generate the superior reading skills that will later go on to drive the girls’ career choices. This may also explain why initiatives targeting adolescent girls and women have had relatively limited success in increasing participation in maths-based careers: they may simply be too late.

盡管如此,并不是說我們應該停止努力去改變認為女孩數理化領域天賦低而語言閱讀能力高這樣的刻板印象。但這也確實表明,這些根深蒂固的性別偏見對女性的很大影響不是發生在她選擇職業的時刻,而是多年前已出現。這種偏見從幼年開始就鼓勵女孩多語言閱讀而少鼓勵她們發展數學興趣,因而培養出女孩優秀的語言閱讀技能,而這些技能隨后將推動女孩作出自己的職業選擇。這也可以解釋為什么針對青少年女子和婦女的數理化職業訓練計劃收效相對有限,因為她們的數學興趣培養可能起步已太遲了。

Instead, closing the gender gap in maths and the physical sciences may actually depend more on reducing boys’ comparative disadvantage in reading.

相反,要縮小數理化科學領域的性別差距,或許還必須采取措施降低男孩在語言學習方面的相對劣勢。

 

Make boys better readers

讓男孩成為較好的閱讀者

David Geary, a cognitive developmental psychologist at the University of Missouri, says that this would also have broader benefits for society. “If you look at the students that are poorly educated, it’s mostly boys, and mostly in reading and writing.” Failing to tackle this could lead to many boys, especially from low-income families, being left “under-employed or unemployable”. Moreover, he says, there can be a tendency to view gender gaps in which men are the minority as somehow less of a concern than those where women are outnumbered. “The whole thing is disingenuous in the sense that no-one talks about the gap in veterinary medicine, for example, which is more than 80% women now.”

密蘇里大學的認知發展心理學家戴維•吉爾里(David Geary)表示,幫助男孩的語言閱讀能力對社會也大有好處,“如果你看看那些教育程度很低的學生,你會發現他們大多是男孩,而且大多是表現在閱讀和寫作方面。”如果不能解決這個問題,可能會導致很多男孩,尤其是來自低收入家庭的男孩,“失業或半失業”。此外,他說,社會可能傾向于認為,與女性人數少的領域相比,男性占少數的性別差異不足以令人擔心。“但這不是真實的,例如,沒有人談論獸醫學界從業者的性別差距,現在超過80%的獸醫是女性。”

Eliot is confident that the reading gap can be reduced, saying it’s smaller among children from more educated households, which provide home instruction and likely value reading and writing more highly. “That suggests that gender reading and writing gaps are as close-able as the gender gap in math, with the right educational interventions,” she says.

艾略特相信,閱讀差距是可以縮小的。他說,在受教育程度較高的家庭中,孩子們的閱讀差距較小,因為家庭教育更注重孩子的讀寫能力。她說,“這說明,只要采取正確的教育干預措施,男孩女孩在語文閱讀和寫作方面的差距與在數學方面的性別差距一樣可以縮小。”

Raising the status of reading and associated career paths would also be good news for girls and women. “Most of these debates are often presented from a male-centred point of view,” notes Breda. “We say: ‘We should push girls to do science. Girls should be more like boys and women should be more like men.’ But that’s not a good way to think of it, it’s already biased.”

提升語文閱讀的地位和相關的職業對女孩和婦女來說也是個好消息。布雷達指出,“有關的爭論大多出自于男性為中心的觀念。因此我們常這樣說, 我們應該鼓勵女孩投身科學。女孩應該更像男孩,女人應該更像男人。但這不是一個好的思考方式,這本身就是偏見。”

Ensuring that boys and girls acquire a solid foundation in both maths and reading, and that both skill sets are given equal status, as well as continuing efforts to remove gender stereotypes will all be important for ensuring that all individuals have as many options open to them as possible. Whether eliminating these differences will in fact remove differences in male-female subject choices, or whether other differences will emerge, remains to be seen.

確保男孩和女孩在數學和語文閱讀兩方面都有堅實的基礎,文理兩種技能都得到平等對待,并繼續努力消除性別成見,是為了確保所有人,無論男女,都有盡可能多的人生選擇。但消除學科技能的性別差異是否真的能夠消除男女在文科和理工科學業和職業選擇上的差異,或是否將因此出現其他新的差異?這個問題尚有待于研究。

“Do we want to swap biologists for computer programmers?” says Geary. “Maybe, maybe not. But it s up to the individual to make that choice.”

吉爾里說,“我們是想讓生物學家改行做計算機程序員嗎? 也許是,也許不是。但這取決于每個人自己的選擇。”

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