Tell Them From Me: Gender and engagement

This report was originally published 13 March 2017.

Image: Tell Them From Me: Gender and engagement


The role gender plays in education has received much attention over the years. Research has tended to look at the ‘gender gap’ in education, particularly in relation to accessibility, attainment and the advantages boys have historically had over girls in these areas. Today, boys and girls have equal access to education and have equal chances of achieving at high levels (OECD 2015)1. Yet there is evidence internationally that ‘new’ gender gaps are emerging: boys are more likely to be disengaged from school than girls, have low skills and poor academic achievement, and to leave school early; whereas girls are more likely than boys to have less self-confidence when it comes to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and are underrepresented in maths, physical sciences and computing in higher education (OECD 2015; NSW Ministry of Health 2016).

This Learning Curve presents results from the NSW Tell Them From Me secondary school student survey conducted in March 2015 to analyse gender and engagement in NSW public schools to determine what (if any) impact gender has on engagement.

Key findings

  • Gender research in education usually focuses on achievement and in particular on ‘underachieving boys’.
  • Tell Them From Me data shows that there is a gender gap between girls and boys on most measures of student engagement and wellbeing.
  • Girls are likely to have higher aspirations and to behave better than boys at school, whereas boys have a greater sense of belonging and are less likely to feel anxious than girls.
  • The gender gap can narrow or reverse when looking at students from particular subgroups or types of schools.

1 In developed countries.


  • Research report
  • Student engagement and wellbeing
  • Tell Them From Me

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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