Girls outclass boys in maths
Gender imbalance: Girls are out-performing boys. Picture: Bill Hatto/ The West Australian

Boys are struggling to keep up with female classmates, with new figures revealing that girls had better results than boys in almost a quarter of Year 12 course units last year.

An analysis of figures the School Curriculum and Standards Authority released last week shows girls did significantly better than boys in 97 course units out of about 400, including some maths and science subjects in which boys traditionally shine. Boys outperformed girls in just two units - in stage one building and construction.

There was no statistical difference between the sexes in about half the units and the remainder had too few students to compare.

Slightly more girls than boys did the WA Certificate of Education last year and many subjects had more girls enrolled.

But girls still managed to excel in courses such as stage three physics, which had more than twice as many boys.

Other courses in which a higher percentage of girls achieved A grades included stage three human biological science, mathematics and geography.

Gender education consultant and author Ian Lillico said the problem was not so much boys falling behind but that assessment, curricula and the job market had "changed dramatically" in the past 30 years to better suit girls.

He said most curriculum writers were women and most subjects had become far more literacy-based.

More thought was needed on whether students were being tested on their literacy levels or their understanding of the subject.

"In the past, a boy could do pretty well at maths without having to do lots of writing but now that's not the case," he said.

"Even in many of the design and technology type of subjects, the actual making of the materials is only about a third.

"The rest of the marks go towards designing and appraising."

Mr Lillico said many boys struggled with writing. If less emphasis was placed on writing essays by hand for three hours and more on multiple-choice testing, boys would do better. He said there was no easy answer but the gender imbalance could even out when schools began to use more online assessments.

"If we go to more digital assessment, it always results in more multiple-choice, pick the right answer (type of question), which is actually sometimes harder and doesn't give extra marks to writing," he said.

The West Australian

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