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Tuesday, 27 August, 2002, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
GCSE results: Why are girls doing better?
This year's GCSE exam results, for more that 600,000 students, show that girls are still outstripping boys in almost every subject.

Last year, boys narrowed the gap by 0.3 to 8.9 percentage points but this year it increased to nine points. The government says it is worried by the "unacceptable" difference.

The education spokesman for the Conservatives said the results showed that too many boys were "turned off learning".

Why do you think girls are outperforming boys? As a parent what have your experiences been of the exam system? How did your child do?

Your reaction

Equality is a fantasy as far as I'm concerned - males and females are fundamentally different both physically and mentally and it would be better if people accepted that. GCSE exams do not mean a lot later in life where you have to think on your feet and cope under pressure, without the blanket of having revised weeks before. Quite simply, they open a door into society, nothing more. Ask the average 30 or 40 year old how much they can remember of their exams.
Peter, UK

Stop comparing by gender, and then we can achieve real equality

Tom Morris, UK
Does it matter? Doesn't equality mean that we want everyone to have the same rights, and to stop discrimination? Yet since all this Political Correctness started, it seems that the amount of people comparing like-with-like has increased. Stop comparing by gender, and then we can achieve real equality, rather than just Political Correctness.
Tom Morris, UK

Girls now outperform boys at GCSE because of the 'feminisation' of the examination process.
Whereas before a typical history question might have read "give an account of the key events during the reign of Queen Victoria, and explain why they are significant", the question now reads "Describe what it might have been like growing up in a Manchester poor house during the reign of Queen Victoria."
Instead of fact-retention and recall, in which girls and boys are roughly equally proficient, the question now requires empathy, something that females excel in, and at which males are useless.
Simon, London, UK

Having just done my GCSE's, as a male I felt they were merely hoop jumping exercises

I'll tell you why. Having just done my GCSE's, as a male I felt they were merely hoop jumping exercises; pointless questions that didn't test knowledge or give us incentive to learn. Most of our teachers found that while girls could learn simply by reading the book, all the guys preferred to discuss and ask questions. Something which some teachers just can't be bothered with.

Because Girls are all big swots and are always sucking up to the teachers while boys just chill out and are rebels and don't care... Or something like that anyway...
John (aged 24), UK

So girls work harder than boys and get their reward from the exam system. This doesn't mean that we should change the system back to exams so that boys start to do better. After all, your working life is more likely to require the skills demonstrated by coursework than exams. And isn't it about time that as much energy and time was spent on the fact that womens' pay is still below that of men, even after nearly thirty years of the equal pay act.
Hazel Johnson, UK

Girls KNOW they have to prove themselves

Sarah, Canada
As a 22-year-old in the army, I know stuff is harder for girls, whether or not you are more intelligent, tougher, stronger, more mature or resilient. Girls KNOW they have to prove themselves whether or not they have more leadership skills and problem solving ability or if they are better at firing a weapon. That is why they work harder to achieve and why only now, we are graduating as not just pilots, but as astronauts, not just doctors, but brain surgeons. To all the great girls who showed the boys up in their GCSEs this year, high five!!!!
Sarah, Canada

I didn't have a male teacher until I was 12. Perhaps without realising it at that age, us boys thought school was a girls' thing.
Mark, England

Has it not occurred to anyone that the Wold Cup was on during the GCSE exam period? This is likely to have acted as a distraction to more boys than girls and reduced their revision work and concentration on the exams.
James, UK

He doesn't want to be a 'wuss' or a 'boff'

Anne Middlebrook, England
I cannot persuade my 10-year-old boy to study for his secondary school selection tests. He doesn't want to appear to be a 'wuss' or a 'boff'. Peer pressure already makes him resistant to work. In his view it just isn't cool to respect his teachers or parents. On the other hand his female classmates are dutifully preparing for their exams. What chance at GCSE when boys' attitudes to learning are ingrained so early?
Anne Middlebrook, England

OK get ready for controversy! I believe women have woken up to the fact that the chances are they will be alone and unwed, and therefore will have to work for a living. Whilst I absolutely applaud women being able to earn as much as men, and therefore keep their dignity, it has meant that men have lost theirs because they no longer feel they can provide for a woman and family.

As a result the country is full of 30-year old childless women longing to meet a guy who earns significantly more than them so that they can settle down, but they can't. Women are attracted to strong men who can provide security for their children, but, because men are no longer earning substantially more than them, they are having a hard time of it. This is the one failure of feminism, and both sexes are suffering as a result. Thoughts anyone?
Ben, London

Who expects boys and girls to perform the same at the same age? Perhaps curiculla should respond to needs differently - now there's a PC challenge.
Dan , USA ex-pat

It seems strange that girls do better than boys by being able to repeat things parrot-fashion for school exams, but men always get the better jobs. Now who really is the smartest?!
Martin, Northern England

I suffered a lot of stress while doing these exams and had to take almost a year out of school

Catherine, UK
Having just received my GCSE results the other day I would like to point out that I worked hard for my results and passed all of my exams. I suffered a lot of stress while doing these which meant I had to take time out of school, almost a year. Now how you can defend people who didn't care about their exams I don't know. Boys don't like to learn as it's seen as uncool. Oh and Martin, Northern England: The only reason men get the better jobs is because unfortunately the world is still a male dominated society, but this will change soon.
Catherine, UK

I personally feel that it is down to the fact that while boys (in my class at least) are better at science, the girls top them because they also excel in the arts.
Elli, England

If you plot the performance from history, girls have always tended to congregate more around the average, while boys are more likely to be at either extreme. If the exams really are getting easier, average performers will be difficult to differentiate from good performers ie. you would only be able to identify poor performers since average, good and above would be lumped in together. So I guess this is just more evidence that the exams are getting easier.
Simon Watkins, Wales, UK

Simple, when boys outperform girls it must be due to discrimination. When girls outperform boys it must be due to their superiority. Until we move on from this point scoring we can never hope for true equality.
Martin, UK

Maybe the girls are cheating.
Bubba, USA

I remember having to write about why animals should not be hurt for my GCSE English exam. Who's likely to perform better in such an exam - a caring sensitive female or a macho lad?
Anjool Malde, England UK

Does it actually matter? Making mass, unnecessary generalisations surely is just encouraging an unproductive divide between the sexes. What is the point? Do we distinguish results based on race or religion? No, because it's irrelevant. We all know that boys mature more slowly than girls, it does not mean they are less intelligent. The boys soon "catch up" to girls' standards at A-level and university. Leave the lads alone, surely some politicians are calling for the end of GCSEs anyway.
Pippa, UK

I'd like more congratulations for these girls' hard work and achievements

H, Belgium
I really don't understand what all the fuss is about. Would there still be a story if boys' results were outstripping those of girls? Or would that be considered as acceptable? And if so, why? Times are changing: girls are expecting more out of life, are prepared to work hard to get it and are now thankfully able to enter any profession they choose. I do agree that a difference between the sexes of 8.9% points is too high but I'd quite like to hear more words of congratulations for these girls' hard work and achievements.
H, Belgium

The high proportion of marks given to ongoing course work is the most important example. Girls outperform boys because the system favours the volume of course work rather than performance in the examination hall. Boys will never work as diligently as girls - but they need a chance to show their strengths in a timed and controlled environment where the true ability of the student is not distorted by differences in the amount of time invested in doing the work.
Ken Charman, UK

When the 11 plus was first set up, boys could qualify for grammar school places with a lower score than girls - otherwise there would have been more girls in grammar schools than boys, something which was clearly unacceptable at the time. This was without the benefit of coursework which is supposed to favour girls, or more hard work which the 11 plus was supposed not to be affected by.
Catherine Stanton, UK

Could it be that more teachers are female?

Dave, UK
Could it be that there are many more teachers who are female and therefore communicate better with girls? It would be interesting to see some statistics on how boys' results differ when taught by male teachers.
Dave, UK

I hope that this high profile example of female capability is making the (many) chauvinists out there squirm a little!
Caroline, Wiltshire, UK

It's a cultural thing. Boys who achieve at school are often derided and excluded by their "cooler" classmates. Is it any wonder that teenage boys, grappling with self esteem and the need to belong, feel they must under-achieve in order to be accepted?
Andy, UK

Well, perhaps the fact that the system of testing pupils has been steadily altered over time might have bearing on this? The emphasis on diligence and coursework rather than ability to perform under examination conditions might be seen to favour female students? Of course it's sexist to suggest that boys do better than girls under stressful conditions but one has to wonder.
Carl Edwards, UK

The equal opportunities people targeted girls for additional tuition when it was clear that boys were outperforming

Nick, England
Perhaps girls are doing better than boys, not because they are inherently more intelligent, but because the equal opportunities people targeted girls for additional tuition when it was clear that boys were outperforming. Now that the so-called equal opportunities lobby have waved their magic wand, the tables have been reversed. It's a non-argument since there isn't equality between the sexes on this matter.
Nick, England

I did my GCSEs five years ago. What I remembered about the boys was that 75% of them mucked about and didn't do their homework. Whilst us girls worked, did our homework on time, turned up to our lessons and respected our teachers. It doesn't cost a thing to be more focused and show respect.
Helen, UK

There is a huge difference between the maturity of 16-year-old boys and their female counterparts

Julia Feilding, UK
At GCSE age most girls can see forward to the next step in their education and boys are too busy watching the girls and this is nature's cruel way of punishing them. At this age, there is a huge difference between the maturity of 16-year-old boys and their female counterparts.
Julia Feilding, UK

I find it interesting that when girls were underperforming no one ever questioned it or suggested that girls should receive special attention, but as soon as the poor boys are outdone by girls, there is a great furore with various people calling for something to be done. Has anyone ever considered that once girls are given truly equal opportunity and tuition, that they are simply demonstrating they really are superior?
Kate, England

In response to Kate's e-mail, when girls were underperforming, there was a big shift to address the balance, and it's clearly worked. I don't think it's necessarily an issue of maturity, just different ways of thinking. Boys generally speaking are more rebellious-minded. This means they fall behind at GCSEs and A-levels, but get more firsts at university.
Ben, UK

From an early age girls are encouraged to take part in "quiet" activities which help equip them for studying later, while boys are not. I wouldn't say it's anything to do with the girls working harder than the boys, I've seen no evidence of that in my school. Also, the exams have been geared towards girls' strengths.
John, England

Even at the age of 16 they have realised that equality does not really exist

Linda Pooley, Scotland
It took women centuries to even have equal access to education, a right still denied to many in certain areas of the world yet it takes only a few years of the boys coming in second for questions to be asked. Maybe this is why girls do better - even at the age of 16 they have realised that equality does not really exist and they have to be proven to be better than their male counterparts to stand a chance of getting anywhere.
Linda Pooley, Scotland

Girls do better because girls get favouritism in class (from both male and female teachers) and boys just can't be bothered to work as hard as the girls.
James, England

I think that at the age that GCSEs are taken it is not seen as 'cool' for boys to knuckle down and work. Boys of this age who could do a lot better often bow to peer pressure and don't work as hard as they could, and therefore do not get the best grades that they are able to. On the other hand, most girls, although under similar though lesser pressures, are able to work harder. Some even pretend they are doing less work than they are, but ultimately they put in the time required to get good grades.
Kerry, UK

Life is about more than just GCSE results. GCSEs are only needed to get onto the next step of education and are then not required again. I have not been asked for GCSE results since I left school nine years ago. We have to be careful that we are not just creating school leavers who have just the ability to pass an exam. Life learning is more than just learning to pass an exam.
Mark Williams, UK

There are more intelligent boys than there are girls in my year

Janet, UK
GCSEs are simply memory tests. I just got all As and can tell you that nothing on any of the papers required thinking about. The girls in my school did more revision, but I believe there are more intelligent boys than there are girls in my year.
Janet, UK

Simple, females have always been smarter than males and we've finally learned the rules of the male dominated game to prove it.
Dina, USA

I find it very tragic that some of the posts written by women here use the succes of their gender as some sort of crutch for their own failings. Let's make on thing clear, it doesn't matter how well all the rest of your sex do, only how well YOU do. I suggest Dina, USA and Kate, Enlgand stop "rooting for their side" and start to address how we can achieve true equality. Their comments are childish.
Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands (ex-UK)

Matt (Netherlands), I suspect that Dina (USA) and Kate (England) have made "childish comments" because they are both about 12 years old. Any grown-up of either sex would realise that this is a non-issue.
Neil, Scotland

Re: Neil, Scotland, who considers that I am probably 12 years old... I am actually 52 and delighted that at least my daughters and grand-daughters will be able to make their own way in this world without being suppressed and repressed by the gross inequalities that existed in the past. When I was at school I was forbidden to study my first love which was engineering, and unable to take up a practical apprenticeship because at that time it was legal to discriminate on the grounds of gender. Now that the discrmination has been outlawed we are seeing girls show what they are really made of.
kate, England

A number of changes to the way the exam system works have in my opinion created this inequality. GCSEs have a lot of course work (suiting the temperament of girls rather than boys), and exam questions have changed in overall emphasis. A question on dates or events will pander to boys' strengths, a question on the feelings associated with a change will pander to girls' strengths. These two changes, along with the fact that boys are not encouraged to excel at school, creates the gender gap results.
Richard, UK

From my experience (many years ago) I think it is simply due to the fact that girls work harder. Boys are more immature at 16, than girls, and so this has an effect on their desire to work for results. Delaying boys' exams may have the desired result.
David Cummings, England



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18 Aug 02 | Education
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