In a study by education researcher Dr Nic Spaull and Hendrik van Broekhuizen of the Socio-Economic Policy (ReSEP) based at the Stellenbosch University’s Department of Economics, women rank higher than men.

Their study, titled The Martha Effect: The Compounding Female Advantage in South African Higher Education, was recently published in the Stellenbosch Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics and the Bureau for Economic Research at the institution.

Spaull said the aim of the study was to show that there is a large female advantage in higher education.

Secondly, the study documented where the advantage is concentrated.

It looked at how learners performed in Grades 4, 5, 6 and 9 and assessed their abilities in mathematics, science and reading.

It found that that female pupils had outperformed their male counterparts.

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In assessing how they performed in matric, researchers used higher education data and studied those who matriculated in 2008, who went on to study at university.

Matriculants were observed for a period of six years (2009-2016).

Spaull said they found that, out of the percentages of females that had outperformed males:

• 27% of females had qualified to study at university;

• 34% enrolled at university;

• 56% had completed an undergraduate qualification; and

• 66% had attained a bachelor’s degree.

He said females are 20% less likely to drop out.

“For every 100 females in matric, there are only 85 males in matric. And for every 100 females in matric, only eight females will complete an undergraduate degree within six years, with even lower numbers for males (only five males).”

The study found that females did not choose “easier” fields.

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However, they are more like to obtain a degree in 12 of the 19 fields analysed by the study, and less likely to obtain a degree in five of the 19 fields.

“This is almost entirely because they do not access these traditionally ‘male’ programmes. Only in Engineering and Computer Science do [females] do worse than [males], once they are accepted to the programme.”

According to Spaull, the best international evidence revealed that females also perform better with self-control, self-motivation, dependability, sociability, perceptions of self-worth, locus of control, time preference and delayed gratification.

The report states that the emergence of a female advantage at school and at university is a global trend among middle- and high-income countries.

In the 33 countries that make up the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – mainly a club of rich countries – 58% of bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women.

In South Africa, it is 61%.

– News24 Wire