Girls outperforming boys in "masculine" subjects (UK)

July 5, 2012

Girls are outperforming boys in traditionally “masculine” subjects such as engineering and construction, despite repeated attempts to close the education gender gap, it emerged today.

New figures show teenage girls are more likely to achieve good grades in practical courses designed to lead straight to a job in traditionally male-dominated industries.

They were almost twice as likely to score highly in vocational qualifications sat between the age of 14 and 16, while results were around a third higher in courses sat in the sixth-form.

The disclosure – in data published by one of Britain’s biggest exam providers – comes amid continuing concerns over the gulf in standards between boys and girls.

According to figures, girls are already ahead in most disciplines by the age of five and the gap widens throughout compulsory education.

Last year, some 62 per cent of girls achieved five good GCSEs, compared with just 55 per cent of boys. Almost one-in-10 boys also failed to gain at least one C grade at the age of 16 – almost twice the failure rate of girls.

Boys have traditionally maintained their hold over girls in a number of more traditional practical disciplines. In 2011, maths was one of the few areas in which they gained better results, with boys more likely than girls to gain A* to C grades.

But a study by the publisher Pearson, which owns the Edexcel exam board, has found girls are now pulling ahead in other “male subjects”.

Researchers analysed results in work-based BTEC courses traditionally sat by pupils at schools and colleges between the age of 14 and 19. Pupils can take courses at Level 2, which is equivalent to GCSEs, and Level 3, which is similar to an A-level.

They found that at Level 2:

• 28 per cent of girls gained top marks – a distinction – in business this year compared with just 17 per cent of boys;

• 18 per cent of girls gained the best mark in a “construction and the built environment” course, against seven per cent of boys;

• 28 per cent of girls secured a distinction in engineering, compared with 16 per cent of boys.

Although boys were far more likely to sit these qualifications, girls still made up a large number of entrants, with around 19,600 taking business and just over 1,000 taking engineering or construction.

Only 11,000 girls sat the practical subjects at Level 3 – principally in business – at school sixth-forms or further education colleges.

But of those completing courses, 48 per cent gained highest possible marks in business and construction, while 39 per cent did well in engineering. Among boys, only 37 per cent secured good grades in business, 29 per cent in engineering and 34 per cent in construction.

Rod Bristow, president of Pearson, said: “I hope these figures will give more girls the confidence to see careers in business, construction and engineering as within their reach. A student’s gender should never influence the subjects they study nor be treated as an indicator as to how well they will perform.”

The conclusions come just days after MPs and peers from the All- Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy called for urgent action to tackle the gender gap in reading.

They said that boys were failing to develop a love of reading during primary education because of a shortage of male teachers combined with an anti-book culture among many fathers.

Schools should stock more action and adventure books to appeal to boys and draft men into schools to act as reading “mentors” to boys, it was claimed.

Source: Girls outperforming boys in "masculine" subjects (

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