Gender Gap in School Science: Are Single-Sex Schools Important?
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This paper compares science subject choices and science-related career plans of Australian adolescents in single-sex and coeducational schools. Data from the nationally representative Longitudinal Survey of Australian Youth collected from students who were 15 years of age in 2009 show that, in all schools, boys are overrepresented in physical science courses and careers, while girls are overrepresented in life science. It appears that students in all-girls schools are more likely to take physical science subjects and are keener on careers in physics, computing or engineering than their counterparts in coeducational schools. However, multi-level logit regressions reveal that most apparent differences between students in single-sex and coeducational schools are brought about by differentials in academic achievement, parental characteristics, student’s science self-concept, study time and availability of qualified teachers. The only differences remaining after introducing control variables are the higher propensity of boys in single-sex schools to plan a life science career and the marginally lower propensity of girls in girls-only schools to study life science subjects. Thus, single-sex schooling fosters few non-traditional choices of science specialization. The paper discusses the likely consequences of gender segregation in science and a limited potential of single-sex schools to reduce them. The results of the current analysis are contrasted with a comparable study conducted in Australia a decade ago to illustrate the persistence of the gender gap in science field choices.
KeywordsSingle-sex schools Gender segregation in science Science and gender Australian education Occupational expectations of adolescents Science subject choice
“Funding and support for this project was provided by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations through the National VET Research and Evaluation Program managed by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government, State and Territory governments or NCVER”
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