Girls may have taken slightly greater advantage of the bonus points offered for Leaving Certificate maths, judging on a gender breakdown on numbers taking the higher-level exams.
According to the State Examinations Commission, the proportion of boys who sat higher-level maths in June remains higher than girls — 23% compared to almost 21%.
But this compares to 17.2% of boys and just 14.5% of girls choosing higher-level maths last year. The actual numbers involved in this year’s record high of more than 11,000 higher-level maths candidates were 5,972 male students and 5,159 females.
But as a proportional increase, the rate of higher-level uptake by girls increased by 43.5% compared to 35.5% for boys, which Economic and Social Research Institute senior research officer Selina McCoy said is significant.
Although the number of candidates still means more boys are likely to pick up 25 bonus CAO points for getting a D3 or better at higher level, it appears the incentive has encouraged a bigger increase in female participation on the tougher exams.
Ms McCoy said that while it may well be related to bonus points, there has been a move towards greater study of higher-level maths by girls in recent years anyway, in line with a similar trend internationally.
“It’s as much about higher-level maths being made available in schools, including girls-only schools, as the culture has shifted and there is more expectation than before of girls to do well at maths.”
“In previous years, girls weren’t aiming for higher-level maths when they might have been capable of it, but over time there has been greater encouragement and support in schools.”
She said the bridging of the gap in the uptake of maths should also ensure girls are not disadvantaged in access to science and other degrees, which are likely to see CAO entry requirements increase significantly because of wider demand as well as the 25 bonus points introduced this year for those taking honours maths.
Maths remains the only one of the 10 most commonly-taken in which a higher rate of higher-level As was awarded to boys (12% compared to 6.8% of girls). But girls clung on to their preferable rate of honours, with 83% getting an A, B or C, just 0.1% more than for boys.
Girls also continue to score more higher-level honours grades in English, Irish, biology, geography, French, business, home economics, history, and art.
There are also major divides on general subject uptake, with more than 90% of home economics candidates being female, and boys representing less than one third of those taking Leaving Certificate art.
Conversely, boys are over-represented in engineering, construction studies, applied maths, physics, and economics.
* The National Parents Council post primary helpline 1800 265 165 is open again today from 8am to 2pm. The CAO round one cut-off points for all courses will be published in the Choices for College supplement in Monday’s Irish Examiner.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved