Girls surpass boys at A Level: how surprising is that?

OK, perhaps I shouldn't use a distaff side Johnson as a source of fact but this did rather strike me:

It’s A-level results day! If this year is anything like previous years, people will aerate about two things: grade inflation, and girls doing better than boys. Naturally, I disapprove of grade inflation except when it benefits my own children (at the time of writing I don’t know my daughter’s grades…) but when it comes to girls’ success as a cohort, I exult openly.

As a general rule one of the things that we know about education is that girls do better under a system of continuous assessment and boys under a system of competitive examination. This is of course not necessarily true of any one individual: but it is on average across any particular age cohort of children. If you want the girls to do better than the boys then skew the testing system to course work. Want the boys to appear to do better then forget the homework and see what they can regurgitate in two three hour periods in the summertime.

That we really do know that this is true comes from the way that a few years back the system of examinations in Enlgand and Wales was deliberately changed to reflect this very point. GCSEs, A Levels, are now more based upon coursework than they used to be. The actual exams themselves now have less importance in the system than they used to. The stated objective of this change was to lessen the skew in favour of boys that a purely examination based system entailed.

So it is possible to exult about the girls outdoing the boys these days if that's what you want to do. For it would be an example of a government policy, a very rare one indeed, actually achieving the goal originally set out. The educationalists wished to reduce the achievement gap between boys and girls. They did so.


However, do note how they achieved their goal. Not by improving education in any manner. They did it by changing the scoring method.

Maybe not so hurrah, eh?