Matsec warns against 'mindless rush for exams'

Boys outperformed by girls in most subjects, only 65 opt for information technology A-level

A statistical report from the University of Malta has revealed that 946 candidates who registered for the September session A-levels for the first time were first year students – meaning they had not sat for their entire two-year course at post-secondary college.

The report says the trend of first-year students sitting for examinations before the completion of their course is now having an effect on the management of the post-secondary schools and colleges, and on how students approach post-secondary education. 

According to Prof. Frank Ventura, chairman of the Matsec examinations board “these effects need to be followed and acted upon to avoid students opting for a mindless rush to obtain passes in examinations at the expense of obtaining a meaningful education and preparation for further and higher education”.

The report reveals that although Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics subjects are among the most popular Advanced level subjects, very few opt for computing and information technology: only 180 chose computing and just 65 chose information technology as an Advanced level subject.

The most popular subject is Biology, with 662 candidates, followed by English (650). These are followed by Pure Mathematics (569), Chemistry (501) and Physics (426), making them the third, fourth and fifth most popular subjects. 

But the report argues that “given the importance of computing and information technology, it is essential to investigate why so few candidates opt for them.”

A larger number opted for these subjects at intermediate level. At this level 268 opted for information technology and 124 for computing.

Females outperforming males

Only 41% of students registering for their Matsec advanced grade exams in 2014 were males. At Intermediate Level, females also accounted for 57.5% of candidates. Females were the majority of candidates in all subjects except Pure Mathematics and Computing. 

Girls also outperform boys in most subjects. Males only account for a majority of ‘A’ students in 10 subjects, while females accounted for the majority of ‘A’ students in 17 subjects. Boys are more successful in computing, physics and pure maths while females are better in languages, accounts, marketing, biology and chemistry.

In another indication that boys are lagging behind girls the latest official statistics are showing that while 33% of females born in 1996 have qualified for the matriculation certificate in 2014 only 20% of males have done so. 

This confirms the trend over the past 10 years. But while the percentage of boys who obtain their certificate increased by four points since 2003, the percentage of girls has increased by six points.

The Matriculation Certificate is a certificate awarded to post secondary students, which guarantees their admission to the University of Malta. Students are required to sit for six subjects from various areas in one session of the examination. The choice of subjects includes a language, humanities or a business subject, mathematics or a science subject, and any other two subjects. The sixth subject is Systems of Knowledge, which is compulsory. Two of the subjects must be at Advanced level, and three at Intermediate level, and Systems of Knowledge, which is also rated as an Intermediate level subject. 

Gozitans more likely to sit for exams

Gozo is over-represented among students registering for their A-levels. 

The number of candidates from Gozo was 457, 58% of whom were females. While only 7.5% of the population lives in Gozo, 11% of candidates hailed from Gozo. 

The report also confirms the low levels of educational achievement in the inner harbour area and St Paul’s Bay.  

In 2004 only 48 candidates hailed from the three Cottonera cities. While these three cities account for 2.5% of the Maltese population they only account for 1% of candidates.  Significantly all eight candidates from Isla were females. On the other hand 6% of candidates hailed from the three villages (Attard, Lija and Balzan), which account for 4% of the population.

Only 96  (2%) hailed from St Paul’s Bay, Burmarrad, Xemxija and Bugibba which account for nearly 4% of the population.

The report states that the quantitative demographic data of this report only shows “ that a deeper, qualitative investigation is needed to explain the differences in the number of candidates coming from the various localities.” 

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