A study of schools in South Korea has found that seventh-grade girls who are assigned to female teachers perform better on standardized tests, enroll in more advanced classes, and are more likely to make plans to attend college. The effects were observed from middle school into high school and are particularly pronounced in STEM disciplines like math and science.

The new study comes as the relative absence of black and Hispanic teachers has become a topic of interest in education research, with multiple reports indicating that exposure to same-race teachers could hold powerful advantages for minority students. Some have speculated that girls, who indicate in wide-reaching opinion surveys that they enjoy school less and feel increasingly unconfident in their abilities as they grow older, could see similar gains from being taught by female instructors.

The study, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, was conducted by Texas A&M associate professor Jonathan Meer and graduate student Jaegeum Lim. The authors followed over 4,000 students dispersed across a sample of 74 middle schools in Seoul, the nation’s capital. In the Korean education system, high school students choose among academic specializations, with most schools offering both math/sciences and humanities/social sciences tracks. The nation provides a particularly promising ground for research because both students and teachers are assigned randomly to classrooms.

Test scores provide the clearest evidence for the benefits of student-teacher gender matching. An existing female-male gender gap in standardized test scores was noticeably widened by the presence of a female teacher. Roughly half of that effect is due to improved performance from girls, coupled with an adverse impact on boys’ scores.

Read the full article by Kevin Mahnken about STEM education at The 74.