Girls Losing Exam Edge; Dipping Grades: Girls May Soon Need Extra Help in Class

Article excerpt

Byline: Graham Grant

IT is a phenomenon that has concerned education experts and ministersfor years. Every year, girls outperform their male counterparts in examsprompting concern over a growing gender attainment gap.

Teachers say female pupils have raced ahead of boys in Standard Grades andHighers because of their confidence and greater ability to concentrate.Meanwhile, male pupils often fail to put in the effort in case their friendslabel them 'swots'.

But now there are fears that despite efforts to close the gap, a 'ladette'culture means girls are beginning to lose their edge.

Some experts believe girls are copying the 'laddish' behaviour of their malepeers and failing to work hard in case it makes them unpopular with friends.

The development echoes a trend in wider society that sees women drinking andsmoking more, behaviour traditionally seen as a male forte.

Education leaders are now asking whether efforts to encourage boys have beendetrimental to female students.

Fife Council has announced plans to investigate why girls' performance isdropping in some of its schools.

Officials at the authority say females are still outperforming boys overall,but their average grades are dipping. The council plans to set up a specialgroup to explore possible reasons for girls' poorer results.

Officials added that the council's target-setting initiatives - which involvecoaching and mentoring children who struggle to learn - might be helping boysmore than girls.

In general terms, female pupils naturally tend to do homework on time and thinkabout what they have learned whereas boys need more of a 'push'. But a focus ongiving boys that encouragement may mean female attainment has been overlooked.

Initial research in Fife suggests the falling grades of girls capable ofachieving two or three Highers may be the biggest area of concern, rather thanthe most or least able pupils.

Scottish Executive figures published recently show 26 per cent of boys achievedat least three Highers in 2004-05, rising to 27 per cent the following year.Last summer, the figure dropped slightly to 26 per cent.

But the proportion of girls gaining the same benchmark decreased from 35 to 33per cent over the same time. …