Girls Smarter Than Boys - Girls beat boys to the honour in 50 Leaving Cert papers

Date Uploaded: 15/08/2014

Girls Smarter Than Boys - Female participation in higher-level science subjects up by as much as 30 per cent

Girls outperformed boys in 50 of the 59 Leaving Cert papers at higher and ordinary level, a gender breakdown of this year’s results shows.

At higher level, boys had a better honours rate than girls in only five subjects including – by a narrow margin – maths where 73.3 per cent of male candidates got an A, B or C compared to 71.7 per cent of female candidates.

Latin, applied maths, agricultural economics and engineering were the other four subjects in which boys did better at higher level. At ordinary level, they came out on top only in applied maths, the blended subject of physics and chemistry, construction studies and design and communication.

The higher success rate, and lower failure rate, among female candidates continues a long tradition in Leaving Cert but this year’s figure also show an emerging trend of girls excelling in science and technology-related subjects.

The number of girls who took physics this year at higher level jumped by 19 per cent compared to a 9 per cent increase in participation among boys. In chemistry, female participation at higher level rose by 11 per cent compared to 2 per cent among males. There was an even bigger shift in subjects once seen as near-exclusively male. The number of girls taking construction studies at higher level rose by 15 per cent to 451, applied maths by 22 per cent to 412, and engineering by 30 per cent to 203. In contrast, the number of girls doing home economics at higher level dropped by 3 per cent to 7,954.

This appeared to have been related more to the perceived difficulty of the subject than a breakdown of traditional attitudes to gender, with the number of boys taking home economics at higher level falling by 16 per cent this year to 607.

One of the biggest disparities was in languages, with 91 per cent of girls getting an A, B or C in higher-level Irish compared to 86 per cent of boys. At ordinary level, girls had an honours rate of 83 per cent compared to 68 per cent for boys.

The figures were mirrored in failure rates. Of 31 subjects at higher level, girls had higher rates of failure in just four subjects and matched boys in a fifth (maths – with a joint failure rate of 4.5 per cent). At ordinary level, girls had higher rates of failure in just five of 28 subjects.

Girls also outperformed boys in the Leaving Cert Vocational Programme (LCVP), an experience-based scheme available in two out of three post-primary schools. Candidates following the LCVP combine a range of Leaving Cert subjects with separate practical modules including work experience and enterprise activity.

Some 1,730 students received a “Distinction” grade, 79 per cent of whom were girls. Mirroring this pattern, 71 per cent of those who failed the LCVP were boys. The number of students taking the LCVP dropped by another 400 this year to 15,274. This is 1,100 down on four years ago, something teachers blame on inadequate funding for the programme.

Forty Leaving Cert examination results have been withheld by the State Examinations Commission (SEC) this year due to suspected cheating or another breach in regulations. A further 21 results are being withheld pending further communication with the schools and candidates concerned.

Results have been withheld in English, history, construction studies, French, business, home economics, chemistry, geography, biology, LCVP link modules and the “personal reflection task” in the Leaving Certificate Applied. The affected candidates can appeal.

The SEC notes: “Any incidence of suspected copying, improper assistance from another party, plagiarism or procurement of pieces prepared by another party are thoroughly investigated by the SEC and the candidate is liable to have penalties imposed.”


Journalist: Joe Humphreys

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