Belfast Telegraph

Warning of education 'learning gap'

Girls spend more time in school learning religion while boys focus more on history, geography and physical education, a new study has found.

The report on nine-year-olds shows dramatic differences in the way children are taught depending on their gender, social background and what type of school they attend.

Researchers have warned of the potential for a "learning gap" between rich and poor as well as boy and girls because teachers tailor classes according to their own outlook and what they personally believe is best for the children.

Pupils in single-sex girls' schools and fee-paying private schools benefit from more engaging classes and learning, while those in disadvantaged areas are more likely to be taught through traditional methods, it was found.

The study, by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) think-tank, shows boys and special needs children were "substantially" less engaged with their education than others in their age group.

Girls are more likely to have a positive attitude towards languages while children in disadvantaged schools spend more time on English and less time on Irish than those in better off areas.

Girls in single-sex schools were more interested in mathematics while boys in single-sex schools were happier to learn English, Irish and mathematics compared to those in mixed sex schools.

The report also shows children in Gaeltacht areas are more negative about Irish than others, particularly those attending gaelscoileanna.

Dr Selina McCoy, senior research office with the ESRI and author of the report, said the study highlighted significant variation in the types of teaching and learning experiences that primary schoolchildren have.

"While this reflects schools and teachers adapting timetabling and teaching approaches to the perceived needs of different students, the report points to the need to balance this flexibility at the school level with ensuring that all children have exposure to varied subjects and methods," she said.

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