New report highlights gender disparity in creative thinking

The latest PISA results reveal a gender disparity in creative thinking that shows high school girls have stronger skills in this area than boys.

The latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results, released yesterday – 18 June – by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has ranked Australian students amongst the highest for creative thinking around the world.

The global assessment – which analysed results from over 81 countries and economies around the world – placed Australian students 4th in overall country performance in creative thinking, behind only Singapore, South Korea and Canada.

In particular, Australia performed far higher than predicted, performing better in creative thinking than expected from prior PISA mathematics and reading performance, well above the OECD average.

However, the report highlights that a large gender disparity continues to exist in the relative performance of creative differences, finding high school-aged girls had stronger creative thinking skills than boys of the same age around the world.

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Toi explain these results in detail and provide thoughts on the PISA 2022 Results (Volume III) Creative Minds, Creative Schools report, Professor David Cropley (University of South Australia), is an internationally recognised expert on creativity and innovation. His teaching interests focus on systems engineering and related concepts, and his research examines a range of aspects of creativity and innovation, both in the field of engineering, and more broadly.

More needs to be done to support creative thinking

“These are very encouraging results, both in relative and in absolute terms. However, the details remind us that there is still work to be done regarding the creative thinking of girls versus boys,” Professor Cropley says.

“An obvious explanation for the good Australian result in the PISA tests is that the creative thinking general capability defined by ACARA is leading to changes in Australian classrooms, with more opportunities for creative thinking being given to students across the curriculum.”

“What is interesting in our research is that boys and girls enter high school with almost identical creative potential. However, as they progress through high school, this declines for both boys and girls – though it declines more rapidly for boys.

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“At around age 15, students in Australia begin to focus more on specialising in their studies, with the ultimate goal being tests and ‘grades’ that determine things like university studies. I think the pressure of the system therefore naturally turns attention to what is perceived as more important.”

The reason boys fall behind girls with respect to creative thinking, says Professor Cropley, is that boys tend to focus more on STEM subjects, or other areas of study that de-priorities creative thinking.

“We need to continue to prioritise creativity across the curriculum – especially at all stages of the curriculum, especially in years 11 and 12,” he says.

“This report shows that Australia has made a very good start, compared to other OECD countries, but we should continue to drill deeper and take the next steps to ensure that Australian students are prepared for the future of work with well-developed skills in creative thinking.”

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