No one wants to categorize six-year-old girls as smarter or more mature than six-year-old boys, but research and statistics show that “many boys don’t do as well in school,” according to Dr Camilla Stoltenberg, who leads Norway’s public health institute (Folkehelse-instituttet). “We see clear differences between boys and girls, where girls have developed more quickly regarding language and self-discipline.”
Stoltenberg recently led a government commission charged with finding out why a gender gap in Norwegian schools has been widening, and what can be done to narrow it. “As a researcher I had seen there was much more autism and ADHD among boys,” Stoltenberg told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) after her commission’s report was released. She also said she knew lots of “personal stories” about how boys simply seemed slower to learn than girls.
One of them involves her own “little brother,” Norway’s former prime minister from the Labour Party, Jens Stoltenberg, who’s now secretary general of NATO. “He didn’t learn to read properly until he was in the fourth grade and was 10 years old, he says so himself,” she told DN. “Jens wasn’t very good in school and I still helped him with math when he was in high school. Boys just often get going a bit late. When he was 20, he’d become very good at school and was studying social economics.”