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Girls and Physics. It's too hard for them. 😕

(332 Posts)
volver Wed 27-Apr-22 15:58:35

The government's commissioner on social mobility has told a government committee that girls don't do Physics beyond GCSE because there’s a lot of hard maths in there that I think they would rather not do. The research generally … just says that’s a natural thing,

So, girls have some innate attribute that means they find Maths hard so they don't want to do it. And there's no research that backs that up, she's just made that bit up.

On a separate twitter post Ms Birbalsingh boasts that she doesn't know how big a number 83 million is. Ms Birbalsingh is a school headmistress.

How did we get here? What happened to the women's movement?

Baggs Wed 27-Apr-22 16:15:22

This, of course, is tosh and should be dismissed as such. I say that as someone with a niece-in-law who is an astrophysicist, as is her husband.

However, there is a well-documented general tendency for women to choose more people-centred subjects of study.

That's about it really. I doubt Mrs Birbalsingh meant what she said literally. She is not a stupid woman. 83 million is actually quite hard to imagine. << for that bit I speak as someone who at one time loved transcendental numbers. Well, I still do but it'd take me longer nowadays to get my head round them as I haven't been practising the lingo for a while.

Joseanne Wed 27-Apr-22 16:21:22

She's right. What's wrong with not doing the subject because they dislike it or find it hard? After GCSE pupils should choose the subjects they enjoy without feeling pressured.
I don't believe she doesn't know "how big a number 83 million is". She didn't say that. She was talking about the number of followers someone has on twitter and said, "I am not even sure what a number that big means…"in terms of whether the person is popular or not. The comment was made 2 days before the Physics/Maths one.
And just because she is a school Headmistress why would she know every subject inside out? Far more important to know every child's strengths and weaknesses and work on those.

Baggs Wed 27-Apr-22 16:23:49

Far more important to know every child's strengths and weaknesses and work on those.

And I gather on this score she is one of the Best and that the school of which she is headmistress is having astounding success in educating disadvantaged children.

Baggs Wed 27-Apr-22 16:24:44

Thanks for the contextuakl additions as well, joseanne. Context always matters.

Baggs Wed 27-Apr-22 16:25:06

Blimey!

*contextual

growstuff Wed 27-Apr-22 16:28:48

Baggs

^Far more important to know every child's strengths and weaknesses and work on those.^

And I gather on this score she is one of the Best and that the school of which she is headmistress is having astounding success in educating disadvantaged children.

She has good PR and Conservative Party supporters. It would be interesting to know by what criteria she's considered "one of the Best". The children her school admits (and keeps) aren't so disadvantaged as she claims.

growstuff Wed 27-Apr-22 16:30:19

Joseanne

She's right. What's wrong with not doing the subject because they dislike it or find it hard? After GCSE pupils should choose the subjects they enjoy without feeling pressured.
I don't believe she doesn't know "how big a number 83 million is". She didn't say that. She was talking about the number of followers someone has on twitter and said, "I am not even sure what a number that big means…"in terms of whether the person is popular or not. The comment was made 2 days before the Physics/Maths one.
And just because she is a school Headmistress why would she know every subject inside out? Far more important to know every child's strengths and weaknesses and work on those.

No, she's not right.

Girls from single sex schools are two and half times more likely to study maths and physics at A level and go on to maths/physics degrees, which suggests there's gender bias.

Joseanne Wed 27-Apr-22 16:32:40

Baggs

Thanks for the contextuakl additions as well, joseanne. Context always matters.

Exactly, Baggs. I wasn't a clever Headmistress, far from it, but I won't have posters making fun of educationalists who obviously have their pupils' wellbeing at heart. That is what is important.

Joseanne Wed 27-Apr-22 16:39:42

But growstuff she is talking about her own school which is co - ed. She is referring to "our girls" and "they" means her pupils. She knows their wishes and their capabilities.

Glorianny Wed 27-Apr-22 16:44:25

The co-ed grammar school I went to believed much the same thing. Girls did arts subjects, boys did science. Amazing to see it still being expressed. Of course in some ways it is a self fulfilling prophecy, because the majority of maths and science teachers tend to be men. Which might explain the girls school anomaly But if she is the commissioner for social equality does this mean she thinks girls are somehow not equal?

growstuff Wed 27-Apr-22 16:47:23

Girls' school North London Collegiate had 368 A level entries in 2021. 195 (over half of them) were in maths, chemistry, biology, further maths or physics. There were 71 entries in maths alone (nearly all of them A*). That's what happens girls are encouraged to be aspirational.

growstuff Wed 27-Apr-22 16:48:11

Joseanne

But growstuff she is talking about her own school which is co - ed. She is referring to "our girls" and "they" means her pupils. She knows their wishes and their capabilities.

But she has a national role and should be talking about all girls.

growstuff Wed 27-Apr-22 16:49:50

Joseanne

Baggs

Thanks for the contextuakl additions as well, joseanne. Context always matters.

Exactly, Baggs. I wasn't a clever Headmistress, far from it, but I won't have posters making fun of educationalists who obviously have their pupils' wellbeing at heart. That is what is important.

I thought you ran a nursery and early years setting. Sorry if I've got that wrong. Nobody's making fun of Birbalsingh, but she's wrong.

growstuff Wed 27-Apr-22 16:51:47

Glorianny

The co-ed grammar school I went to believed much the same thing. Girls did arts subjects, boys did science. Amazing to see it still being expressed. Of course in some ways it is a self fulfilling prophecy, because the majority of maths and science teachers tend to be men. Which might explain the girls school anomaly But if she is the commissioner for social equality does this mean she thinks girls are somehow not equal?

Probably, as does Kemi Badenoch, the supposed Minister for Equalities.

Joseanne Wed 27-Apr-22 16:52:25

I think she means girls shouldn't feel compelled to take subjects they struggle with or find hard just because.
Far better to lead them to their natural choices than to drive them against their leanings. Not that I don't agree that many bright girls excel in these subjects.

MaizieD Wed 27-Apr-22 16:54:37

Girls from single sex schools are two and half times more likely to study maths and physics at A level and go on to maths/physics degrees, which suggests there's gender bias.

Feminists were drawing attention to this in the 1970s!

Katherine Birbalsingh is a very contentious figure in the education community. It's Traditionalists v. Progressives all the way.

Interested in what you're saying about her intake, growstuff. Do you have a link or two to clarify? I'd always understood it to be pretty mixed, but it is a 'free school' so I suppose it could appeal to a certain kind of parent. The school's results are very good...

Joseanne Wed 27-Apr-22 16:55:35

I thought you ran a nursery and early years setting. You have indeed got that wrong. Not that it would make any difference to my adding my views.

Musicgirl Wed 27-Apr-22 17:02:50

My mother is a mathematician and won a place to study maths at university. When she did A levels she had to go to the boys’ grammar school to do physics. This was in the fifties. By contrast, I found physics difficult at school but I found the mathematical equations the most logical and understandable. I quite like maths but was not good enough for A level. This report is taking us back to the dark ages. We are good at different things but it has nothing to do with our sex. Incidentally, one thing that really bugs our family is when people giggle and say that they are no good at maths as if it is something to be proud of. They would not giggle and tell us that we’re illiterate, would they?

Callistemon21 Wed 27-Apr-22 17:10:11

The government's commissioner on social mobility
Good grief!

Where's Jeremy Corbyn when you need him? His mother must have been good at Maths because she taught chemistry (and
maths) in the 1950s and 1960s at an all-girls' school.

Have we gone backwards since then?

volver Wed 27-Apr-22 17:10:12

Firstly, I've never heard of this lady before so I'm certainly not making fun of her as an educationalist. But she is seriously wrong. Very, very wrong indeed. I've been in STEM for 40+ years and the whole time we've been subject to this "it's not a girl's thing" claptrap.

What she said in context is the following: When asked why fewer girls take Physics than boys, she said that Research generally....people say that's a natural thing. Then a bit of waffle about I don't know, I'm not an expert
As for There's a lot of hard maths in there that they would rather not do. shock

I’m lost for words. Educator or not, that attitude is antediluvian.

And her comment about big numbers; if somebody said “Shakespeare? I don’t really understand it giggle." Would you expect that from a headmistress? No, but when it comes to numbers, anything goes. You're spot on Musicgirl.

(growstuff - note the tweeter wink)

twitter.com/chrischirp/status/1519293906227183616

MerylStreep Wed 27-Apr-22 17:15:03

I’ve followed this teacher for years and if that’s what she’s found then so be it.

johnbald.typepad.com/language/support-katharine-birbalsingh/

Grandma70s Wed 27-Apr-22 17:17:14

I am more worried about boys not doing literature and poetry. I know they are less commercially valuable subjects but, you know, there are other values.

( I don’t know any statistics abou this, but it is just what I observe.)

volver Wed 27-Apr-22 17:17:30

She hasn't found it. In her own words.

I don't know. I can't say. I'm not an expert. That's what people say.

She is deluded. Sorry.

Callistemon21 Wed 27-Apr-22 17:20:15

Ms Birbalsingh tweeted:

Once again press takes one quote of mine out of context and everyone goes mad
I am not going to force our girls to do A level physics if they don’t want to do to it.

It is OK if we don’t have an exact gender balance in all subjects

That's good then, because more women than men are accepted into medical school.