Opinion

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Exam system must deliver for both sexes

ANOTHER year, another tour de force by girls, who continue to outperform boys in the Leaving Certificate.

It is a familiar pattern, in examination systems in Ireland and further afield, for girls to achieve higher grades as they leave school.

In Ireland, with the exception of maths - and a small number of other subjects - girls continue to achieve higher grades at both higher and ordinary level than their male counterparts.

The suggested reasons for the education gender gap are myriad.

It is said that the better grades achieved by girls can be explained by the fact that they are better organised and that the traditional format of a written exam operates to the detriment of boys, who tend to fare better in multiple-choice-style exams.

Previous research has also suggested that single-sex schools are better for girls, with boys - in contrast - achieving better grades when they attend mixed-sex schools.

Every year, thousands of young people leave school before taking the Leaving Certificate.

This attrition, in the main, affects boys, who are more likely to drift away from formal education, as early as their second year in the second-level cycle.

As the Government moves to overhaul our education system, it must design one that delivers for both sexes, whatever their differences.

However, the gender gap is a double-edged sword and one that extends beyond the school cycle.

We must also address why girls and young women, who outperform boys at school, fall victim to a gender gap that can favour men once they enter the labour force.

Irish Independent

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