Far more girls than boys qualify for university
Nearly twice as many girls as boys earned the qualifications needed to enter university last year, according to the statistical report on the 2003 Matriculation Certificate examinations.
While 27.5 per cent of females obtained the certificate, only 16.4 per cent of the males did so.
The percentages are of all children born in 1985, who turned 18 in the year of the exams and made up the vast majority of final-year sixth form students.
It is the first time the annual report has published these figures, and the big gap between girls and boys was described as worrying, although expected, by senior Matsec Unit staff, who run the exams.
A Matriculation Certificate is obligatory for entry into university. To earn a certificate, students must obtain passes in five subjects selected from both the humanities and sciences, and Systems of Knowledge.
Education Minister Louis Galea recently called for an investigation to find out why under a third of 16-year-old boys obtained the necessary SEC (ordinary level) exam passes to get into sixth form last year, compared to nearly half of the girls. The gender gap at Matriculation level is even wider.
Grace Grima, the author of the report, said the result was expected: As more girls are getting into sixth form, more of them are of course sitting for the matriculation exams: 36 per cent of all girls born in 1985 compared to just 22 per cent of the boys.
She said girls tended to be more diligent in their studies and did better at all educational levels. For example, consistently more girls than boys pass the Junior Lyceum entrance exams taken at the end of primary school.
This is also the trend internationally. A recent survey by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. shows that women have overtaken men at every level of education in developed countries around the world, and are going on to earn higher salaries.
Ms Grima proposed one reason why boys in Malta are not doing as well as the girls. She said that at the end of primary school, boys in state schools sit for two selective exams - the Junior Lyceum and Church school entrance exams - whereas girls only faced the former.
According to her hypothesis, there is therefore more chance that early on in the educational system, boys who do not do well get grouped together in lower streams, become subject to lower teacher expectations and get demotivated, which obviously tells on their results.
On the other hand, due to there being one less "filter" for girls, their classes tend to have a higher mix of academic levels, which pulles the general standard up.
Prof. Frank Ventura, chairman of the Matsec Examinations Board, said the gap at Matriculation level was not a question of girls being more "intelligent" than boys. In fact, among the candidates, more boys obtained A and B Grades.
However he admitted the gender difference in attainment was worrying and said this was one of the issues to be looked into by the team appointed recently by the minister to carry out a major review of the Matsec exams.
Among the candidates (as opposed to all children born in 1985) there was no significant gender difference in the propertions obtaining a Matriculation Certificate.
Their overall pass rate was 75 per cent, slightly higher than the figure in the previous couple of years. Nearly 15 per cent, however, did not make it at first try (in the May session), but got through in the September resits.
Nearly 11 per cent obtained a Grade A in the May session; 22 per cent earned a Grade B and 28 per cent a Grade C.
Among the 18-year-old candidates, slightly more boys than girls obtained Grades A and B: respectively 12 percent compared to 10 per cent and 24 per cent as against 22 per cent. Twenty-nine per cent of females obtained Grade C compared to 26 per cent of males.