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These top St Hilda's students were among girls outgunning boys in school results for the past year
WA News / Astrid Volzke These top St Hilda's students were among girls outgunning boys in school results for the past year

Girls have expanded their domination of Year 12 subjects to include the trades, maths and science courses where boys traditionally shine, an analysis of Curriculum Council figures has revealed.

Get your comprehensive 8-page guide to the 2009 school rankings. Only in your weekend edition of The West Australian.

While girls' schools took most of the top 10 places in academic league tables, other data released this week provides more proof that boys are struggling to keep up with their female classmates, with girls outgunning boys on school work completed through the year.

An analysis of the grades awarded by schools reveals there was no subject in which boys did better than girls last year.

Girls out-performed boys in 73 of 315 course units last year, including calculus, outdoor education, physical science and business management and enterprise.

There was no statistical difference between boys and girls in 49 units, including automotive engineering and technology, chemistry and applicable maths.

The other units had too few students to compare.

The Curriculum Council said it compared the distribution of grades achieved by boys and girls to decide which was the better-performing group.

Last year's results were similar to those from previous years.

NSW-based boys' education consultant Peter West said a similar trend had been building across Australia since State curriculums changed in the 1980s.

"We've made the curriculum girl-friendly, but in the process we've unfortunately made it less boy-friendly," he said.

"Everything has become very verbal and 'discuss' is a favourite word. You say discuss to most boys and they turn pale and feel sick."

He said the trades-based subjects had changed so that students were expected to write more instead of doing hands-on work.

This favoured girls because they had better writing skills.

Dr West said a $19.4 million program called Success for Boys set up by the Howard government in 2006 to improve boys' literacy and bring in more male mentors appeared to have had little effect.

Assessments needed to change to better suit the way boys learnt, he said. A return to exams worth 100 per cent of marks would benefit boys.

"We can either try and change the boys or change the way we assess the boys," he said.

Education Minister Liz Constable said she was concerned about the issue, but it was not confined to Australia.

"It seems now to be occurring worldwide," she said.

"We are analysing data and I have been having discussions with the Department of Education to make sure that we learn more about the issue and continue to refine our strategies for addressing the educational needs of boys."

Get your comprehensive 8-page guide to the 2009 school rankings. Only in your weekend edition of The West Australian.