Illiteracy is Rampant in Women: Nature or Nurture?

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It’s widely considered that women have both better social skills and have better memory whilst men are better with perception and coordination. These have been attributed to the way that the brain is wired differently in male and female humans and after nearly a thousand brain scans; these suspicions have been astutely confirmed. Female brains tend to be connected to a higher degree between the left and right hemispheres, which respectively control logical and intuitive thinking. In fact, in men, the only section which was frequently connected strongly was in the cerebellum, which develops motor control and precision for physical activities and sport. However, the reason why this is, is still shrouded and is called into question upon the discovery that there are few differences in the brain until a child turns 13 and usually slows the range of change after late teenage years.


However, this begs the question: Nature or Nurture? This time old question has been asked again and again, is it someone’s gender that defines the way their brain is wired or is it something of an issue involving their environment, upbringing and social pressure? One Neuroscientist believes that it is solely of the latter. Neuroscientist Professor Gina Rippon of Aston University, Birmingham, believes that differences in the brain only occur due to environmental factors. This is most visible through the study of the brains of black cab drivers of London, which have undeniable physical changes after acquiring an almost-photographic recollection of the city’s streets and traffic systems.

  • Women have minds wired differently to men.
  • Neurobiologist Professor Gina Rippon claims that this is purely down to how girls are treated.


These issues transcend further, with women accounting for well over two thirds of the world’s illiterate adults. Many have attributed this high rate of female illiteracy to nature, women simply aren’t hardwired for these sorts of learning purposes and therefore it’s no wonder the rate of illiteracy is women is so high. Others however, attribute it to nurture; female toys and role models teaching young girls that they don’t have to improve their minds to be successful, social systems in the Middle East restricting the access to education for female students and women in general having their worth dropped via a combination of Photoshop-heavy social images and having less access to well-paying jobs.


These illiteracy ratings stretch incredibly thin in the aforementioned Middle East, as there is a 9:10 female to male ratio in Arab schools. The overall country rating reflects the world rating as out of 48 million illiterate people; two out of three are women. It’s no surprise that UNESCO, advocate for international peace and prosperity, has made gender equality one of its six goals in its Education for All 2015 initiative. UNESCO’s Director General, Irina Bokova, has stated “No society can develop sustainability using just 50 per cent of its human capital. This is a waste of talent and human ingenuity that no society can afford.” UNESCO has recently turned its efforts to the twenty-two Arab states and is working with the governments of the various countries to try and establish a better system to encourage the participation of female students in schools.

  • Women make up 2/3 of the world’s illiterate adults.
  • UNESCO is working with Middle Eastern Governments to encourage the education of female students.


So what do you think? Is it natural for girls to have such a high rate of illiteracy? Perhaps, it’s down to bad role models, gender stereotyping and social conformity that there is such a skewed ratio? Or perhaps it’s due to genes, evolution and hardwiring of the brain that simply can’t be changed? How about delving into a Science or Biology role to find out with SeekTeachers?


[The Guardian: Male and Female Brains Wired Differently]

[The Telegraph: Men and Women do not have different Brains]

[The National: New Call for action on Education for Girls]