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Girls outshine 'disengaged' boys in Junior Cert yet again


Eily Mary Fokseang from Tralee and Denise Culloty Tralee with their Junior Cert results

Eily Mary Fokseang from Tralee and Denise Culloty Tralee with their Junior Cert results

Eily Mary Fokseang from Tralee and Denise Culloty Tralee with their Junior Cert results

GIRLS outperformed boys in the Junior Certificate again this year.

They achieved more honours or ABC grades in all subjects at higher level in the exam.

While girls also did better at ordinary level, it was less pronounced than at higher level.

The gender gap is a familiar pattern not only in Ireland, but around the world, and there are concerns about boys becoming disengaged from their studies.

As well as getting more honours grades at higher level, girls also tend to pick up more As.

On the other side of the coin, boys are also more likely to get a result below D.

At higher level, one subject where boys do better in As is maths, but, across the full ABC spectrum, girls overtake them.

Boys were more likely to be clustered in the D and below-D grade in maths. For instance, in Maths, 19.5pc of boys scored a D, compared with 16.5pc of girls; while at a below-D level, it was 3.3pc boys and 2.8pc girls.

The only subjects at higher level where boys notched up more ABC grades were metalwork, materials technology (wood), and environmental and social studies.

The differences in performance can be quite stark, with 86pc of girls sitting higher-level Irish achieving an honour, compared with 73pc of boys.

The gap is almost as wide in higher-level English, with 82pc of girls achieving an ABC, compared with 70pc of boys.

Meanwhile, in science, 82pc of girls scored an ABC, compared with 76pc of boys.

Underachievement by boys is often put down to girls being better organised, as well as a laddish culture that does not regard school as cool.

The problem is most pronounced among boys in working-class areas. Boys are more likely to start disengaging with school in second year, the year before the Junior Cert.

Efforts are now being made to address the under-achievement issue, after it was highlighted in an Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) study some years ago.


The ESRI study noted a dip in academic performance in second year, with an increase in misbehaviour generally.

Girls, particularly those from professional backgrounds, were more likely to engage with school at this point, but it is where a drift begins, especially among boys from lower socio-economic backgrounds and among those in a lower academic stream.

Department of Education inspectors are now encouraging schools to persuade students with low ambitions to raise their sights.

Irish Independent