Today it was revealed that one of the largest examination boards in the country, the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), is developing new GCSE courses designed specifically for boys and girls. In creating these courses, AQA is investigating the possibility of basing a science GCSE for girls predominantly around coursework whilst simultaneously assigning greater value to exams for boys.
Studies have indicated that girls generally excel more in coursework, whilst boys tend to perform better under exam conditions. Despite this, AQA has made it clear that all pupils, regardless of gender, will have the option to select either the traditional or gender-specific GCSE course.
The proposed courses are set to cover English, Maths and Science and could potentially be available from September 2022. "We could offer a route for boys that is very different to a route for girls," stated Bill Alexander, Director of Curriculum and Assessment for AQA.
The move was not without criticism from the educational sector, with John Bangs, Head of Education at the National Union of Teachers, stating that categorising based on gender was "extremely dangerous." "There are lots of boys who like the investigative element of coursework as well," he said.
John Dunford, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, also argued that the notion that boys excel in exams, and girls in coursework, was "a wild generalisation," but agreed that there was "more than a grain of truth" to this observation.
Dunford also suggested that, instead of solely sitting gender-specific exams, pupils’ coursework could be assessed in part by professionals. This year could see a potential end to the trend for girls to outperform boys in GCSEs, as the introduction of new courses that have no coursework and rely almost completely on exam performance could lead to a shift in the traditional learning dynamic.