Boys' schools dominate feeder lists for third-level colleges

Reversal of trend seen in 2011 and 2012 figures, when girls’ schools tended to perform significantly better than their male equivalents

Boys and girls schools are sending the same numbers of students to third-level, while co-educational schools are performing well, according to a gender analysis of the top 100 feeder schools published in today’s Irish Times Feeder Schools list.

Within the top 50, however, boys schools dominate, securing 21 out of 50 places, compared to 13 for girls schools and 16 for co-educational schools.

While these figures are just a snapshot of a number of schools at this particular time, and should not be interpreted as supporting or weakening a case for sex-segregated education, they are almost a complete reversal of a gender analysis we did in 2011, when girls schools took 23 of the top 50 spots compared to just 13 for all-boys schools and 10 for co-educational schools.

In 2012, girls and co-educational schools also tended to perform significantly better than boys schools.


This year's top ten is dominated by boys schools, which take five spots including first and second place. Of the country's all-girl schools, Muckross College, a non-fee paying school in Donnybrook, Dublin 4, is the best-performing, featuring at number nine in the chart. In the overall top 100, there are 30 boys schools, 30 girls schools and 40 co-educational schools.

The school which sends the highest proportion of students to college is Coláiste Eoin, an all-boys Gaelscoil in Stillorgan, county Dublin. Coláiste Eoin is also sending the highest percentage of students to high-points courses, which include those offered by the universities, RCSI, teacher training colleges and the DIT.

Boys schools also perform well on the chart which tracks progression to high-points courses, taking first, second and third places, as well as three others in the top ten. This list is also heavily dominated by fee-paying schools.

Of Ireland's 732 post-primary schools, 104 (14 per cent) are boys' schools, 138 (19 per cent) are girls' schools and 490 (67 per cent) are co-educational. Ireland has a higher proportion of single-sex schools than most other countries.

Research on the relative merits of educating boys and girls together or separately is mixed. A study conducted by Emer Smyth at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found very little consensus on whether sex segregation leads to better academic outcomes for either boys and girls. But there seems to be more reliable evidence that co-education is better socially for both sexes. A 2011 study in the US found there is no scientific justification for educating boys and girls in separate schools based on supposed differences in the structure of the male and female brain, and this week, a major study in Tel Aviv Üniversity of 1,400 male and female brains failed to find any evidence there are any distinct variations in the brains of men or women.

However, despite indications from today’s tables, girls are leaving boys in the dust when it comes to the Leaving Cert, outperforming them in the vast majority of papers, except maths. Boys are more dominant in institutes of technology, which tend to focus on science and engineering.

Boys make up 58.5 per cent of this year’s first year students at the Dublin Institute of Technology. At UCD, the largest university in the country, females comprise 52 per cent of the overall student body.