Girls score far better than boys on an essential soft skill

Girls dramatically outperform boys on collaborative problem solving, finds a global education survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The OCED's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tested 125,000 students across 52 regions on their ability to work with two or more people to solve a problem. PISA's collaboration survey is part of larger movement to analyze the academic, social, and emotional factors that may predict student success, Jenny Anderson writes for Quartz.

According to PISA's survey, here's how students' collaborative skills stacked up:

  • Across every region tested, girls outperformed boys at collaborative problem solving by an average of 29 points;
  • Less than 10% of all students can solve problems with a high level of collaboration complexity; and
  • Students in Singapore ranked highest for mean collaborative problem solving score (561), whereas U.S. students ranked ninth (520).

Girls may be better at collaborating because they have greater social skills than boys, argues Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at OCED. However, when the OCED measured individual problem solving skills in 2012, boys outperformed girls, he adds.

The world is placing "a growing premium on social skills," says Angel Gurría, the secretary-general of OECD. More than ever, employers are seeking well-rounded candidates who work well with others, put their problem solving skills to use in challenging situations, and are personable.

In fact, teamwork ranked as No. 3 on a list of skills deemed "very important" by employers in a 2016 survey. Even in industries that rely on technical and quantitative skills, collaboration remains one of the most important skills for data scientists. Despite the demand for collaboration skills, college grads still lag behind employer expectations.

To prepare students to succeed in the modern workplace, education systems must develop a curriculum that helps students foster the soft skills needed to succeed, Gurría argues (Anderson, Quartz, 11/27).

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