A-Level results are due out this week and many thousands of students will find out whether they will be going to the university of their choice, or whether they will be staying at home co-unemployed with ex public sector workers known as mummy and daddy.
Applications show a rise in those who have applied for science courses which should cheer up the Royal Society which has been putting out report after report voicing its concerns about maths, science and technology in schools.
It, variously, has criticised the level of academic challenge in particularly chemistry but also in maths and ICT. The latter it referred to as ‘dull’.
A dissection of the university entrance figures is mildly interesting. A massive jump in applications overall (35%!) is to be expected as the economic troubles continue but the fact that there are approximately 2,000,000 students currently within the University system is (to me) quite surprising..I did not realise it was that big.
But more than mildly interesting are the following figures:
Last year into that pool of 2 million students a mere 1,548 girls applied for Computer Science...!
Pschology (BSc) did better at over 12,000 and Biology even better at over 21,000. Girls accounted for nearly 70% students on Psychology courses, 60% of biology courses and (depending on the university) between 1 and 20% on Computing and Engineering courses.
So, disproportionately, our brightest girls are interested in the workings of the mind and the body and boys in the workings of inanimate things. Thus it ever was. By and large girls do not do computing, girls do not rebuild bikes. No doubt at all that they could, after all this was made blindingly obvious during the Second World War when all the stereotyped jobs were mixed up; it’s just that they choose not to.
Thirty years in teaching has shown me that boys and girls have a marked intelligence hike (however you measure this) when they are fully engaged in something that interests them. My assertion then is that girls by and large (ignoring Gaussian overlaps) can’t do computing because of the opposite effect, from which I know I suffer, namely an intelligence drop when fully-disengaged with something.
Let’s call this ‘contextual intelligence’. IQ can go down as well as up depending on the context.
Living with Contextual Intelligence
I think OLED displays are very interesting in terms of the underlying technology... apparently my co-diners were less enthralled. The point is that in a mixed group if you want some kind of synergy you have to concentrate on areas of General Interest. This social imperative has unfortunately been adopted by schools and applied to various subjects in order to keep the dialogue going.
It is a bit of a one way street though. Few history lessons would find a route to examine the growth of display formats and their use in state-propaganda systems but you can bet your bottom dollar that an ICT teacher will bang on about the social consequences of eye strain and attention deficit resulting from computer use.
And this is my point. The Sciences have been made more ‘accessible’ by being in effect feminised. This is futile. It makes geeky stuff less attractive to boys and the data shows it fails to make it attractive to girls.
My plea is not to re-masculinise subjects but to abandon the sterile quasi-feminist debate that has lead to progressive disenfranchisement of boys from their studies but failed to entice girls into science and engineering at higher levels.
‘Peeking and poking’ at binary data does not interest girls, it does not interest all boys of course but don’t forget we males dominate the autistic spectrum disorder and as such considering the social impact of home working (GCSE ICT) doesn’t do it for us.
Let science and tech with its obsession with the inanimate be comfortable with itself again. Never of course disallow either sex to choose any subject but don’t ‘dinner party’ tech world and fall between two stools.
Of course girls can do IT, if they wanted to but many don’t. So make it more interesting to those that do.