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Establishing a STEM Pipeline: Trends in Male and Female Enrollment and Performance in Higher Level Secondary STEM Courses


The purpose of this study was to understand enrollment and performance differences between male and females in higher level secondary STEM courses. This study analyzes performance and enrollment of 355,688 secondary students in higher level STEM courses. This research also enabled an exploration of country level differences. The enrollment research questions are evaluated using chi-square tests, frequency tables, and histograms. Performance research questions are analyzed with hierarchical linear regression and ANOVA with post hocs and Cohen’s d effect size measures. Results suggest that females enroll much less frequently in higher level secondary STEM courses. Females and males perform equally well.

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  1. 1.

    Students may register for individual IB courses and take exams and are referred to as Diploma Course students.

  2. 2.

    The core content of each SL/HL course overlaps, with more teaching hours dedicated to each component in the HL option, allowing for additional topics and/or more depth. Mathematics HL requires students to complete 5 h of external exams and an internal exploration project. The SL course assesses students on two external exam papers instead of three and also includes short response items and extended response items (IBO, 2012).

  3. 3.

    Legal status (at level 2) was most significant in the Design Technology model. A reduction in variance of 26.7 % is meaningful, and this indicates that the legal status of a school may play an important role in exam performance. It is worth noting that Design Technology had the smallest sample size, and that a three-level model may not have been the most appropriate method of analysis here due to the uneven distribution of public/private schools in this subject. It is likely that the model is picking up on the proportion of private schools in the sample (Hox, 2010).


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Correspondence to Liz Bergeron.

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Bergeron, L., Gordon, M. Establishing a STEM Pipeline: Trends in Male and Female Enrollment and Performance in Higher Level Secondary STEM Courses. Int J of Sci and Math Educ 15, 433–450 (2017).

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  • Competition
  • Course selection
  • Gender gap
  • Higher level courses
  • HLM
  • STEM