Academic Competencies: Their Interrelatedness and Gender Differences at Their High End

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The present study investigated (a) how a latent profile analysis based on representative data of N = 74,868 4th graders from 17 European countries would cluster the students on the basis of their reading, mathematics, and science achievement test scores; (b) whether there would be gender differences at various competency levels, especially among the top performers; (c) and whether societal gender equity might account for possible cross-national variation in the gender ratios among the top performers. The latent profile analysis revealed an international model with 7 profiles. Across these profiles, the test scores of all achievement domains progressively and consistently increased. Thus, consistent with our expectations, (a) the profiles differed only in their individuals’ overall performance level across all academic competencies and not in their individuals’ performance profile shape. From the national samples, the vast majority of the students could be reliably assigned to 1 of the profiles of the international model. Inspection of the gender ratios revealed (b) that boys were overrepresented at both ends of the competency spectrum. However, there was (c) some cross-national variation in the gender ratios among the top performers, which could be partly explained by women’s access to education and labor market participation. The interrelatedness of academic competencies and its practical implications, the role of gender equity as a possible cause of gender differences among the top performers, and directions for future research are discussed.

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