No end to gender divide in Leaving Cert subjects

No end to gender divide in Leaving Cert subjects

When men make up four out of five graduates in engineering, manufacturing and construction, and women make up 87% of primary school teachers, looking at who is studying what may provide some insight into how gender divides in certain careers still occur.

Data provided by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) on the gender breakdown of the candidates who sat their Leaving Cert this year might also provide an early insight into how these divides are still occurring, and why.

The numbers of young men and women taking the higher level core subjects — maths, Irish and English — this year are roughly in line with those from 2018.

In 2019, a greater percentage of female students took the higher-level English paper than their male counterparts; 77% of girls opted for the higher level paper, compared to 65% of boys.

A slightly higher percentage of female students also achieved top marks in English; 3.3% earned a grade of 90% or higher, compared to 2.5% of boys.

When it comes to Irish, half of female students sat the higher level paper, and overall they tended to fare better than their male counterparts.

Just under 7% of girls achieved 90% or higher as their final grade.

Just under a third of male students opted for the higher level Irish paper, and 4.2% received a H1 grade — those who received a mark of 90% or more in a higher level paper.

Just 2% more male students took higher level maths than female students, 33% vs 31%.

However, percentage-wise, there was a higher figure of young men achieving the top grades.

More than 8% of male students came away from the exam with a H1 grade, compared to just under 4% of girls.

At foundation level, 10% of students were young men, and just over 9% were young women.

In the languages, young women tended to do slightly better than young men during the exams.

Just under 7% received a H1 grade in French and German. This compares to just under 6% of boys who earned a H1 in French and just over 5% in German.

Male students made up just 8% of those who sat home economics exams this year.

In the results, 22% of these students received a H3 grade or higher. In biology, young men made up 39% of all those who sat the exam in 2019.

Just under 42% of students who took agricultural science were girls and at higher level, they received 6.1% of H1s compared to 3.7% of boys.

Male students made up the majority of those sitting exams this year in subjects like applied maths, physics, design and communication graphics and engineering.

While just 21% of students who sat applied maths exams were girls, just under 14% of those who opted for the higher paper achieved a H1.

Almost 54% of female students achieved a H3 or higher in applied maths.

In physics, 72% of students who took the higher level paper were boys but just under 11% of girls earned the top grade, the same percentage as their male counterparts.

When it comes to engineering, girls made up just 7% of the students who sat the Leaving Cert exam, a nominal increase from 2018.

But when young women did opt for the subject, they tended to achieve better grades. Almost 5% of girls sitting the higher paper this year received a H1 grade in the subject, with almost 47% receiving a H3 grade or higher.

This is a higher percentage than what can be seen for male students, with just under 4% receiving a H1 grade, and 42% receiving a H3 grade or higher.

A similar trend can also be seen with design and communication graphics, a subject heavily focused on problem-solving and creative thinking.

Just 13% of those who sat exams in the subject this year were female students, with young men making up 86% of those who opted to take the subject at the higher level.

But at this level, girls tended to do better, with almost 8% of them receiving 90% or higher as their final grade, and 58% of them received a H3 grade or higher.

This compares to just over 6% of boys who received a H1, and almost 49% who received a H3 grade or higher.

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