Progress in science hindered by gender imbalance, researchers warn

Bos account for three-quarters of Leaving Cert physics students

Ruth Freeman: delighted to see more students opting for science, technology, engineering and maths in CAO first preferences.Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Ruth Freeman: delighted to see more students opting for science, technology, engineering and maths in CAO first preferences.Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 01:00

Science researchers have welcomed the improved performance among Leaving Cert students in technology-related subjects but warned that a continuing gender imbalance is hindering progress.

Science Foundation Ireland said “important milestones” were reached this year, with more students opting not only for higher-level mathematics but also related disciplines.

There was an 11.3 per cent increase in students studying physics, the biggest percentage increase across the sciences in 2014, while 1,706 students took the applied mathematics exam this year compared with 1,599 in 2013.

Dr Ruth Freeman, director of strategy and communications at the foundation, said she was delighted to see more students opting for science, technology, engineering and maths in CAO first preferences.

The Institute of Physics in Ireland was also relatively positive about the trends but cited a gender imbalance, with boys accounting for three-quarters of Leaving Cert students in physics. This should be tackled by changing perceptions of the subject and “personal goals”, it said. Of concern too was the fact that almost a quarter of schools were not offering physics at Leaving Cert level.

Institute chairman Peter van der Burgt said: “To deny the students of 23 per cent of Irish schools the chance to study this highly valued subject runs counter to all Government efforts to increase the uptake of physical sciences.”