Qualification figures show growing gap between sexes

[NZ Herald, Friday July 25, 2008]

Martha McKenzie-Minifie

Girls are still outdoing boys in university entrance - and new figures show the gap has widened.

Last year, 45 per cent of female school leavers got the qualification, or an equivalent, compared with 33 per cent of the males.

Despite high-level work on the issue, the 12 percentage point "gender gap" was the largest in four years. Between 2004 and 2006 it had held steady at 10 percentage points.

The rise is a 20 per cent increase in the gap compared with a year earlier but is described in the latest Ministry of Education's school leavers report as "relatively unchanged".

Education Minister Chris Carter said a specialist reference group's report on boys' achievement was due in about a fortnight.

The gender gap might relate to the emphasis on internal assessment in modern qualifications systems, as opposed to end-of-year external exams, he said, and New Zealand was not alone. "This in an international trend. Educationists all over the world are grappling with this."

The data, released yesterday, showed that overall more students were leaving with higher qualifications. Sixty-six per cent leaving secondary school last year achieved level 2 NCEA or above, up from 60 per cent in 2006.

The proportion with little or no formal attainment halved, from 11 per cent in 2006 to 5 per cent last year.