A vast gap remains between Leaving Cert boys and girls studying science, technology, engineering, and maths (Stem) in schools, while the reverse pattern is seen in foreign languages.
The latest Education Indicators for Ireland report shows while the number of girls and boys studying one or more Stem subjects excluding maths is near parity, the number plummets when biology is taken out of the equation.
Excluding maths and biology, just 41.5% of girls are studying another Stem-related subject, compared to 71% of boys. Fewer than 9% of girls study two or more Stem subjects outside of maths and biology, whereas 39% of boys do so.
Stem subjects for the Leaving Cert are mathematics, applied mathematics, agricultural science, biology, physics, chemistry, physics and chemistry, engineering, construction studies, design and communication graphics and technology.
In contrast, the number of girls studying at least one foreign language in sixth year is 82%, compared to just over 54% of boys.
There has been a significant increase in the number of overall students studying a language other than French for the Leaving Cert in the past five years, up to nearly 50% in 2021 from just over 41% in 2017. The other languages examined at Leaving Cert are German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese, and Arabic.
The number of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream primary and post-primary schools has risen substantially in recent years, as has the number of special needs assistants (SNAs), the report said.
The number of students rose from 5,572 in 2017 to 8,740 in 2021, while the number of SNAs increased from 13,862 in 2017 to 18,050 in the same period.
Overall, the pupil-teacher ratio at primary level has fallen from 15.3 to 13.7 since 2017, while in post-primary it has fallen from 12.8 to 12.2 in 2021. Average class sizes at primary level have fallen from 24.5 in 2017 to 22.8 during the same timeframe.
Apprenticeships increased from 19,630 in 2020 to 24,212 by the end 2021, the report said.
Traditional craft apprenticeships such as electricians and mechanics by far and away account for most of the numbers, but a mere 1% are women, the data show.
Participants in Skillnet Ireland programmes exceeded 85,000 for the first time, including almost 5,000 unemployed people, the report said.
Skillnet is a Government agency aimed at boosting new skills within existing firms and organisations.