STEM enrolments in Victorian single-sex and co-educational schools

Year: 2016

Author: Forgasz, Helen, Leder, Gilah

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There is increasing concern about Australian workforce participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics [STEM] (e.g., Office of the Chief Scientist, 2016). In particular, the need to encourage an increase in female participation in STEM has been flagged (e.g., Office of the Chief Scientist, 2013). The Office of the Chief Scientist (2013) provided descriptions of the fields of study encompassed by the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The Victorian year 12 VCE subjects consistent with these descriptions include: the three mathematics subjects (Specialist Mathematics, Mathematical Methods, and Further Mathematics), Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and the two Information Technology subjects (IT applications, and Software Development).It is a widely held belief that girls are more likely to study STEM subjects in single-sex than co-educational schools. Logically, later participation in STEM-related studies and careers should follow. However, in an analysis of Australian Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth [LSAY] data gathered in 2009, Sikora (2013) reported that “Girls in girls-only schools are more likely to take up physical science subjects than their female counterparts in coeducational schools. However, single-sex schooling does not affect the likelihood of girls planning a physical science career” (p. 3). In a relatively small recent study in the USA, the authors also concluded that “gendered or other types of school environments do not seem to increase female participation in these [STEM] types of careers” (Cherny & Campbell, 2011, pp. 722-723). In this paper we report large scale data not readily available publicly: enrolments in year 12 Victorian Certificate of Education [VCE] STEM subjects for males and females in single-sex schools, and in co-educational schools. Our aim was to explore the patterns of enrolment in the VCE STEM subjects over time (2000-2015). In this presentation, we will discuss the patterns of enrolment by sex over time for students in co-educational and single-sex settings. ReferencesCherny, I. D., & Campbell, K. L. (2011). A league of their own: Do single-sex schools increase girls’ participation in the physical sciences? Sex Roles, 65, 712-724.Office of the Chief Scientist. (2013). Science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the national interest: A strategic approach. Canberra: Australian Government.Office of the Chief Scientist. (2016). Australia’s STEM workforce: Science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Canberra: Australian Government.Sikora, J. (2013). Single-sex schools and science engagement. Adelaide: NCVER.