Global stereotypes would have you believe that women in the Arab world are educated to assume traditionally female roles  in the home and workplace, while their Western counterparts are able to excel in a wider range of subjects. But a test carried out by a representative sample of 15-year-olds in 65 developed countries across the world paints a different picture. According to results from a science exam set up by the global body, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)  in 2009, and sat by a total of 470,000 pupils, girls in the Middle East far outshine their American peers in the traditionally male subject.
Girls in Arab countries who took part in the test did consistently better than boys with Qatari females scoring around seven percent more than males and Jordanian girls more than eight percent. These results are in stark contrast with the United States, where boys scored almost three percent better than girls.
According to researchers, these results can be explained by 'cultural forces' that keep girls in countries like the U.S. and Britain, away from scientific careers. Andreas Schleicher who oversees the tests for the OECD told the New York Times that in the Middle East, subjects like science allow women to earn the kind of “social mobility” that would be more easily available in the West.
“For girls in some Arab countries, education is the only way to move up the social structure,” he said.
However, with results for the OECD’s 2012 science exam set to be released later this year, it remains to be seen if the pattern will change for the region’s latest female students.
Are you shocked by these results? Why do you think girls in the Middle East outperformed their American counterparts in the science exam? Share your comments with us below!