A stark gender gap between boys’ and girls’ schools in the number and choice of Stem subjects they offer their pupils is shown in new figures.
While there is universal uptake in maths, and biology is popular among female pupils, other Stem subjects don’t get the same look-in at girls-only schools.
In many cases, it is because other Stem subjects, such as technology and engineering, are not even on the timetable in girls’ schools.
The huge differences are highlighted in new figures from the Department of Education, based on the annual post-primary school returns for the years 2014-2018.
On the flip side, when it comes to foreign languages, while 69pc of sixth-year boys studied at least one in 2018, the figure for girls was 87pc.
The returns show wider availability of Stem subjects generally in schools, as well as rising uptake by both sexes across most indicators, but the gender divide remains wide.
Stem – which stands for science, technology, engineering and maths – study is seen as an essential foundation for future careers, and addressing gender imbalances was a key recommendation of an expert group under Dublin City University (DCU) president Brian MacCraith three years ago.
A Government push to increase Stem study at all levels of education, particularly among females, was spurred by the group’s findings, but the latest figures show the scale of the challenge.
Leaving Cert Stem subjects are agricultural science, maths, applied maths, biology, physics, chemistry, physics and chemistry, engineering, construction studies, design and communications graphics and technology.
At Junior Cert, Stem covers woodwork, technology, technical graphics, metalwork, maths and science.
The disparities are obvious at Junior Cert level, with 73pc of boys taking at least one Stem subject (other than science or maths), three times the 23pc of girls.
And they continue into senior cycle, with the figures showing that many girls have limited choice when it comes to Stem subjects.
While some 92pc of boys’ schools have physics, chemistry and biology on the Leaving Cert timetable, it drops to 77pc for girls’ schools. In co-ed schools, it was lower again, at 62pc.
One of the most significant divides is in the percentage of schools offering a Stem subject other than maths or physics/chemistry/biology.
Last year, it stood at 96pc of boys’ schools, compared with 56pc of girls’ schools. In co-ed schools, it was at 93pc.
So it is no surprise that the 72pc of sixth-year boys taking one or more Stem subjects (excluding maths and biology) in 2018 far outstripped the 40pc of girls. However, participation among girls was up from 36pc in 2014.
If biology is not discounted, the sexes are much closer, with 91pc of boys taking one or more Stem subject (excluding maths), against 86pc of girls.