Obscuring the developing brain

The Department of Education and Ofqual, the exams regulator, are repeating their King Canute act again this year. What they are trying to do is to pretend that an educability gap between adolescent girls and boys doesn’t exist — never mind the fact that more girls than boys are getting better grades at school-leaver A-levels.

Girls’ brains mature earlier than boys’ and, at 18 years of age when A levels are taken, are at least a year ahead of boys and nearer two. It’s no wonder that, since the final admission by the previous predominantly male job structure that females have the full rights to any job, girls have been entering a wider and wider band of subjects when at school.

At A-levels, girls finally caught up with boys a few years ago and have overhauled them every year since. They’ll probably continue to increase their percentage of good results marginally for another year or two yet — and then the differential will remain the same from then onwards.

The authorities have been trying to fiddle what should be natural results by decreasing the proportion of marks given to course work and increase those of the final exam. Boys, being risk-takers genetically, have been able to respond less stressfully than girls to exam enhancement and so the girls’ improvement over boys has been slowing down.

But this has been an artificial dodge. Who is actually to say which is the better way of teaching and testing the learning of a subject? If teachers had been told to design course so that many more marks were given to course-work and many fewer to final exam results then girls at 18 would have considerably more successful than boys. It’s a moot point which is the better or of learning or teaching a subject.

When equilibrium is finally reached in a year ro two then then the authorities will have to start giving up their attempts of playing King Canute — or, rather, his officials — and attempt that universities must start accepting girls at a younger age or, if both are required to enter at 18 years of age, then two different exams must be set.

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