'My Daughter Loves Science, but Says She Doesn't Want to Study with "Only Boys" in the Sixth Form' ; EDUCATION QUANDARY
Wilce, Hilary, The Independent (London, England)
What your daughter means is that there will be more boys than girls taking sciences, and that all her close friends plan to do arts subjects. Even so, it will be hard for her to see beyond the imagined social isolation to the long-term opportunities from studying sciences.
There have been many initiatives designed to encourage girls into science, but none has worked very well. Last year, Daniel Sand-ford Smith of the Institute of Physics told the House of Lords that research showed that ultimately "it is the quality of teaching that matters and if you do not improve the quality of physics teachers in schools, you will not be able to address the problem."
This won't help your daughter, so go all out to make her see the broader picture. Talk about jobs and salaries; take her to visit university science departments; track down happy female graduates; and find interesting work experience for her. Seek help from her science teachers, and from organisations such as Wise (Women Into Science and Engineering, at www. wisecampaign.org.uk). She might hate you for it now but thank you later.
Choosing only arts subjects closes a lot of doors. Our schools have an excellent record in encouraging girls to study science at A- level - if girls nationally studied physics and chemistry to the extent that they do in our sixth forms, there would be 19,000 more chemistry and 8,000 more physics A-levels sat every year. When we surveyed our former students who did science, most had gone on to careers in science, medicine and related subjects. Because they had a passion for the subject, they were still enjoying their work many years later.
The Girls' Day School Trust
As I was interviewing for head of physics, I set this quandary as a written exercise for candidates. …