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1/2 of all state schools have no girls sitting physics A level

(392 Posts)
Himalaya Wed 03-Oct-12 08:46:52


Just listening on the radio. sad

Thoughts? Experience? Ideas?

Startailoforangeandgold Wed 03-Oct-12 13:17:50

I don't think most scientific girls are bothered by there being not many girls in physics or chemistry classes. I loved it, no bitchy cliques. No fashion and celeb rubbish to worry about. Geeky boys don't expect to get girl friends so they are just friends and lab partners.

I really think there is something in the very abstract nature of physics and computing that doesn't appeal to most Women. Strange as pure maths does have quite a few females.

DH is a total geek and he can get totally engrossed in fine technical detail in a way I can't.

I love the bigger picture the big bang theory, partial physics etc are fascinating until you turn them in to maths.

What computers can do is brilliant, but writing code with all those fiddly ruleshmm

I think we most certainly need to encourage girls into physics and computing, but I'm not sure we should expect equal numbers to study them at the highest levels or be found in the most abstract corners.

Perhaps it is hard wired into us to always keep on ear out for the baby crying in the night, so to speak, to not do one thing and ignore everything else around us.

I don't know, it's bloody annoying, a bit of me would still loved to have been an astronomer.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 03-Oct-12 13:20:45

Bitchy cliques = girls; 'geeky boys don't expect girlfriends' ... crikey, any more stereotypes you want to throw at that! grin

Ok, I do get what you're saying, but honestly, I did half my sixth form subjects in a co-ed group and the other half with the rest of my all-girl school (we shared classes with the boys' school for small subjects) - the boys were as cliquey as you can imagine.

I don't think physics is more abstract that pure maths. And I've never been quite clear where the dividing line is between mechanics and physics.

Slubberdegullion Wed 03-Oct-12 13:38:34

But from a purely subject matter pov why do abstract/mathematical subjects appeal to boys more than girls?

I really struggle with the hardwiring hypothesis tbh, although I am intrigued to know if there are neuro-physiological differences (+/- effects of hormones upon) between the sexes that influence the ease of which new subjects are learnt, and pleasure gained from the process.

I wonder if you asked a large group of 14-15 year olds a load of increasingly hard sums and gave them all a functional MRI scan while they were doing them what the images would look like? would there be a significant difference between the scans of the boys and girls?

LittleFrieda Wed 03-Oct-12 13:45:11

slubber - are you a neuroscientist?

CaseyShraeger Wed 03-Oct-12 13:49:57

Even if there were, it wouldn't tell you anything about hardwiring. The human brain is plastic and by 14/15 it's had 14-15 years of socialisation acting on it.

dinkystinky Wed 03-Oct-12 13:52:42

Not that sure its much better in private schools. In my private school, I was one of 3 girls taking A level chemistry (in a class of 20), my friend was the only girl taking A level physics (in a class of 12). Conversely there was only boy taking A level spanish alongside me (in a class of 6) and only 5 boys taking A level english in my class of 16.

dinkystinky Wed 03-Oct-12 13:53:40

P.s. my issue with A level physics is I was told I'd have to take maths and further maths A level to do it. Didnt enjoy maths so decided to drop physics. Got on fine with my chemistry A level though (even the physical chemistry components)...

ithinkimightbegoingmad Wed 03-Oct-12 14:05:06

just marking my place-doing a PGCE in Physics!

Want2bSupermum Wed 03-Oct-12 14:06:21

Numerous studies have shown that girls do better in the classroom when boys are not around. This was the reason why my father wanted my sister and I going to all girls schools. He wanted us to explore subject areas with confidence and has already told us that he will back us up financially if we decide to go private with DD. We are in the US and the science provision is not good in our town. We are looking to move to another township where the schools there have a much stronger program from an earlier age.

I went to a private school and out of year of 90-ish there were around 30 taking Chemistry, 35-40 taking Biology and 15 or so doing Physics. Those who were doing Physics did Maths and most also did Further Maths. It helped that the teachers were brilliant and it was considered cool to study science subjects.

PrideOfChanur Wed 03-Oct-12 14:06:39

I did A level Physics,I don't remember it being particularly abstact - not that that would have bothered me. For the degree I went on to do Physics,Maths,Biology would have been the perfect set of A levels,I didn't do Maths as I couldn't cope with the thought of doing all those topics covered by both courses twice from 2 different angles.
I didn't have any problems with that.
I was in a single sex grammar equivalent school,and my class was maybe 15 people? Not noticably smaller than Biology and Chemistry.This was in the 70's though.

ithinkimightbegoingmad Wed 03-Oct-12 14:06:51

I love the bigger picture the big bang theory, partial physics etc are fascinating until you turn them in to maths

couldnt agree more! grin

TeaAndHugs Wed 03-Oct-12 14:07:09

I went to a single sex school. There were about 10 of us that did physics A level, out of a year group of roughly 100. There was never any suggestion that it was an unusual subject for girls to like. We had some inspiring female physics teachers which helped enormously.

"Is there any point taking physics though if you don't want to do a physics degree/become a physics teacher?"

I work as a freelance writer. My physics degree taught me how to explain complicated ideas clearly, review scientific literature, understand statistics, and assess the quality of scientific studies - all skills that I use frequently in my work.

ithinkimightbegoingmad Wed 03-Oct-12 14:08:16

are there less female physics teachers?
maybe its about role models?

Slubberdegullion Wed 03-Oct-12 14:08:50

grin Freida, a physio.

Casey yy, that is much more likely to be the case, but it would still be interesting to see the differences in brain function of 14 years of socialisation whilst doing abstract exercises.

Kind of links in with what BlueStringPudding sais in her post about the differences between how girls and boys will approach an experiment.

OhGood Wed 03-Oct-12 14:13:14

Whoever it was on Radio 4 this morning who said 'Girls don't like doing physics' absolutely enraged me. That's exactly the kind of attitude that adds to the creeping, nasty, sexist, unconscious tide that makes girls think that 'proper' girls don't do physics, or maths, or computer programming. The irony is, she was trying to make the point that teachers are gender-neutral in their approach, and should not be blamed for decisions made by girls. Well, if you create an atmosphere in which you can make a stupid, ignorant, sexist generalisation like that, then you are very much to blame.

If anyone wants to read a much better argument than mine, I can't recommend Cordelia Fine's book 'Delusions of Gender' enough. She patiently debunks the whole 'Girls are good at x, boys are good at y' myth. That Radio 4 woman (can't find out who she was) should be made to read it before she is allowed to open her mouth again.

OhGood Wed 03-Oct-12 14:14:07

mumzy Wed 03-Oct-12 14:14:38

My dsis did a physics degree in 80s where for every 1 girl there were 10 boys on the course. The upside was she was never short of boyfriends grin

mumzy Wed 03-Oct-12 14:16:50

Also dsis degree made her somewhat of a rarity and got her into some amazing wellpaid jobs again she was completely outnumbered by male colleagues

I did physics, pure maths and chemistry in 1985. Physics was by far the easiest, it seemed all you had to do was learn equations. I was the only girl in the physics class and it felt really liberating. Although the concepts were interesting up to a point, it seemed to get detached from the actual application of physics and just turn into maths. Long term biology would have been far better, I did a chemistry degree and have worked in biochemical fields ever since.

CMOTDibbler Wed 03-Oct-12 14:19:19

It saddens me hugely. I'm a physicist, and I love how physics is what underpins everything in our universe. Physics is not dull dry and boring, and though of course to study at high level you stop just having the 'big picture' and see the detail, it is beautiful.
Its nothing to do with my chromosomes, but due to good teaching by people who loved science (not by any means the norm), and having the chance to see what physics is really about.

I could get on my high horse about the media representation of scientists too, but I'm in a meeting where I'm using physics to save lives an all.

Youwontdissolveintherain Wed 03-Oct-12 14:23:08

If you want to get children interested in physics at an early age you could do worse than get this:

6yo Ds was given it by my mum and loves it - and friends' 10/11yo girls who came round spent all afternoon on it making lie detectors and burglar alarms etc. Brilliant fun.

TheSmallPrint Wed 03-Oct-12 14:24:01

I went to an all girls school and did Physics and Maths at A level with a full class. I was also taught by two female Pysics teachers (we had plenty of male teachers in the school) and one female and one male maths teacher.

Youwontdissolveintherain Wed 03-Oct-12 14:24:23

Sorry, link again:

TheSmallPrint Wed 03-Oct-12 14:24:33

Be nice if I could spell Physics. grin

MammaBrussels Wed 03-Oct-12 14:26:55

I loved Physics at school but couldn't take A level as it clashed with Economics. I wonder how many schools have female Physics teachers? Could that have something to do with it?

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