Monday 16 September 2019

Leaving Cert 2019: Fears weaker boys may be left behind as girls top class

Girl power: From left is Ciara Rogerson, Aoife Swan and Saoirse Mangan with their results in Blackrock, Dublin. Photo: Collins
Girl power: From left is Ciara Rogerson, Aoife Swan and Saoirse Mangan with their results in Blackrock, Dublin. Photo: Collins
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Girls have continued the tradition of outperforming boys in almost all Leaving Cert subjects.

Female students are more likely to aim higher to begin with, and study and sit the State exams at honours level.

On top of that, the girls go on to achieve more high grades, borne out again this year in a gender breakdown of the Leaving Cert results from the State Examinations Commission (SEC).

Interactive guide to 2019 CAO points, click here

In 23 of 37 Leaving Cert subjects, at higher level, female candidates were more likely to notch up the maximum H1 grade.

The subjects where boys scored more H1s - a mark of 90pc-100pc - were maths, applied maths, chemistry, physics and chemistry, accounting, economics, Japanese, technology, religious education, politics and society, Italian and Polish. In physics and construction studies, the two sexes were level pegging on H1s.

However, the boys did not retain the bragging rights in all those subjects when it came to performance across the top four grades.

An analysis of the gender comparisons down to H4, which is a minimum mark of 60pc, shows the girls were ahead in all but four subject, with the boys having the advantage in maths, applied maths, chemistry and engineering.

As well as dominating at the top of the results table, girls are also less likely to feature at the lower end, with boys much more likely to achieve a mark of below 40pc or below 30pc.

Some of the differences are striking with, for instance, 6.7pc of girls achieving a H1 in Irish, compared with 4.2pc of boys, while in history 8.2pc of girls got the top grade, compared with 5.2pc of boys. It was the reverse in maths, with 8.2pc of male candidates scoring a H1, more than double the 3.8pc for girls.

The figures also show that weaker male students are in danger of being left further behind, with boys getting more H8 'fail' grades - below 30pc - than girls in more subjects compared with last year.

However, at least part of the explanation for this may lie in the migration of increasing numbers of students from ordinary level to higher level. When that happens, the weaker students among that cohort will have more difficulty achieving at the higher level.

Gender differences in exams is an age-old phenomenon that is not unique to Ireland and researchers around the world continue to try to get behind all the reasons why it happens.

It is often attributed to girls being more organised generally, including in their studies and preparation for exams.

Irish Independent

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