For centuries, boys were top of the class. But that’s no longer the case as a growing gender disparity becomes apparent, with females outperforming males in every sector of education.
Yesterday, the NSO published its latest figures on graduate students, confirming a growing trend in Malta’s educational system: females are doing substantially better.
By the end of the 2017 scholastic year, roughly 500 more women (2,513) completed either a Bachelor’s, Masters or Doctoral degree; outnumbering men (2,067) at every level.
The gap is only growing, with the number of women getting graduate degrees is increasing by a rate of 13% compared to the 8% recorded for men.
The gender disparity is felt throughout the sector. In this year’s O-levels, figures showed that females were much more likely to register for the exams (98.6% to 89.7%) and obtain the entry requirements for sixth form (47.9% to 41.4%).
They are also much more likely to take the three science subjects and sit for multiple foreign language examinations, while males typically opt for vocational subjects.
At A-level the gap is also apparent, in 2018 36% of girls got their certification compared to 23% with 52% of girls sitting for the exam compared to 35% of boys.
In certain localities in Malta the gap is even wider. For example, females make up more than 70% of all people who sit for their A-levels in the localities of Għargħur, Żebbuġ(Gozo), Swatar, Ħamrun, Nadur, Gudja, Siġġiewi and Marsaskala.
The disparity is not a solely local phenomenon.
A meta-analysis conducted by the American Psychological Association examining schools across 30 countries over nearly one hundred years found that girls have been getting better grades than boys for decades.
Not only are they markedly better in language classes, but they also outperform boys in maths and science.
So why is this the case?
Analysts cite a myriad of reasons why females may be performing better in education. Some have theories that it could be that parents and teachers encourage females more because they assume they need more help, while others think educational structures suit learning styles typically preferred by women.
One point that most authors seem to agree on is the curious questions as to why females are unable to transplant their academic performance into the workforce.
The oft-quoted gender pay gap, which is an analysis of average wages and not a comparison between two exact professions, does present some food for thought.
While it isn’t often the case that women get paid less for the exact same job, the gender pay gap does show that females and males certainly find themselves occupying different roles in the workforce.
Figures show that men are more likely than women to hold jobs on both ends of the income spectrum, occupying the majority of roles in both management positions and construction/manufacturing.
Meanwhile, women seem to gravitate towards educational roles, while also taking up a number of professional roles.
Whether this is by choice or by institutional barriers is up for debate. However, are we failing to recognise biological determinants between the two genders, or have we set up two distinct yet linked sectors to favour one sex, whether that is education or the workforce?