(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) As women students continue to outshine men by an average of ten per cent at the school and university levels in Oman, a team of researchers at Sultan Qaboos University is trying to identify the reasons behind the low academic performance by men and find ways to improve it.Titled 'Gender gap in student performance: Implications for the labour market and the fabric of society,' the study is significant as men are traditionally considered the bread-winners of society. This disparity is likely to have serious implications on the structure of the labour market, as well as on family structures and relationships amongst the Omani population.The first phase of the study, which was carried out amongst 8,000 students at the school, college and university levels in six governorates, has revealed that girls outperformed boys by an average of ten per cent in subjects like science, mathematics, information technology (IT), and the English and Arabic languages.Dr Mohammed Eltahir Osman, assistant dean at the College of Education in SQU and the principal investigator of the study, said, ''According to our findings, the gap between boys and girls is huge in case of the English language and smaller in case of IT. This result is an outcome of a study conducted amongst 8,000 male and female students. Further research is needed as our sample size for this study is 12,500 male students.''Citing examples of gender gap in student performance at SQU, he said, ''At SQU for example, female students have outperformed their male counterparts across colleges and disciplines by an average GPA (grade point average) of 2.92 for females and 2.63 for males over the years. As much as 93.4 per cent of the College of Education Dean's honours list comprises female students.''The fact that over 90 per cent of the SQU honours list has continuously consisted of female students has made it extremely difficult for the university to recruit qualified male faculty and assistant lecturers (from among the graduates).''The fear is that in the near future, higher education institutions may have to recruit less-qualified male academic staff at the expense of quality, for the sake of striking a balance between men and women staff,'' he added.The sample group for the study is being collected from students in five different categories - grades 1-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12 in school and years 1-3 of university. In addition, another sample of 1,000 people will be selected for structured interviews. This sample will include parents, teachers, school administrators, supervisors, guidance counsellors and social workers from the same school and communities.Four researchers are involved in the project that is divided into three phases. In the second phase of the study, the team of researchers will try and identify reasons for the low academic performance of men as compared to their women counterparts. ''In the last phase, as per the results, we will accordingly highlight the possible factors that can bridge this gap in academic performance,'' Dr Osman said.''The research team will identify pedagogical, psychological and sociological factors that may explain the gender gap, as well as the impact of each on the performance of girls and boys.''He said the phenomenon is not restricted to Oman. ''It has also been witnessed in the UK, New Zealand, USA, Australia, Canada and other countries. Our aim is to investigate our own factors for reliable and sensible intervention.''