Following an overwhelming response to our blog ‘Are Girls Smarter than Boys?’ the issue has raised its ugly head again as girls have pulled yet further ahead academically with this year’s record GCSE results.
For many years it has been argued that statistics showing a difference of one or two percentage points may be explained by a myriad of different reasons completely unrelated to gender, but this year a gap of over 7% seems just too significant to ignore. A whopping 73.5% of GCSE exams taken by girls this year were awarded grades of A* to C, compared to just 66% for boys.
Top Grades Gender Gap
And at the top level the gap also widened, with 26.5% of girls’ entries achieving the top A and A* grades compared to just 19.6% for boys. This gap of nearly 7% has widened by a whole percentage point since last year.
Different maturity rates?
So what is the reason for this mysterious trend? Can it really be that girls are just smarter than boys? Andrew Hall, director of examination board AQA, thinks not. His theory is that girls simply mature faster than boys, meaning that they are more conscientious and work harder to revise for their GCSE exams, thereby achieving higher grades. He points out that by the time they take their A-levels (when boys have caught up a little in the maturing process) the gender grade gap has already narrowed. The gap there does still exist however, albeit slightly smaller, suggesting perhaps that some boys may even need a little bit longer to catch up…
Subject Gender Gaps
It is also extremely interesting to look at the difference in grades achieved by the two genders in specific subjects. In maths, for example, boys have achieved more highly than girls for the past three years in a row, though the girls leave them even further in the shade in English, with 72.5% achieving an A* to C grade compared to a paltry 58.7% of boys.
Different Academic Strengths
These subject-specific results strongly suggest a different way of interpreting the gender gap – that it is not a sign of a gap in intelligence or application, but rather a difference in the style of education and examination that best suits the different sexes. It appears that girls are more at ease with traditional written answers and essay-style questions, explaining their supremacy in English and their overall prowess, as the majority of exams currently take this form. Boys, on the other hand, seem to prefer more calculations and factual questions, explaining their high maths results. This theory is particularly supported by the fact that boys have only been achieving more highly at maths than girls in the years since maths coursework was abolished in favour of direct examination.
A Worrying Trend?
Whilst experts have described the increasing gender gap as a “worrying trend”, it does not seem to relate to a discrepancy at university level, or later in the world of work, so it might be assumed that the propensity for students to choose university courses and jobs that best suit their own areas of comfort and expertise will naturally erase the inequality in the long run.