Inflexible school curriculum leads to gender imbalance later on, research suggests

A new study published in The Economic Journal has suggested that women are often under-represented in high-powered careers because they shy away from taking advanced maths courses at school.

The research claimed that teenage girls are deterred by the inflexibility of additional maths courses and the curriculum, and are not put off the subject due to lack of reward or level of difficultly.

The study is based on an analysis of Danish data covering three groups of students whose education and careers had been monitored since starting secondary school in 1984-86. The research allowed students to take a more flexible combination of advanced maths and other courses rather than a restrictive set of courses.

The findings of the study outlined that the number of girls selecting advanced maths doubled after the initiative was introduced, with more boys also choosing to study advanced maths courses.

Furthermore, the research found that students who studied advanced maths qualifications earned 30 per cent more on average and maintained higher career achievements. Boys and girls with identical abilities in maths each showed an equal uptake of the subject.

The study concluded: "Changing the learning environment and designing the curriculum to identify and foster girls with high mathematical abilities would attract more girls and reduce the gender pay gap.”

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