NSW Education Department Investigates Gender Imbalance in Gifted Primary School Classes

NSW investigating changes to Opportunity Class test as fewer girls enroll, raising concerns about gender imbalance in gifted education program.

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Geeta Pillai
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NSW Education Department Investigates Gender Imbalance in Gifted Primary School Classes

NSW Education Department Investigates Gender Imbalance in Gifted Primary School Classes

The New South Wales (NSW) Education Department is investigating possible changes to the Opportunity Class (OC) placement test as the number of girls enrolled in these gifted primary school classes has declined to a record low of 39.5% in 2023.

This marks a significant decrease from 47% in 2017, prompting concerns about the growing gender imbalance in the academically selective program.

Alice Ou, an 8-year-old Year 4 student, is among the candidates who will sit for the highly competitive OC test in August. The test determines placement in the state's opportunity classes, which cater to academically gifted primary school students. The department aims to address the gender gap and increase the representation of girls in these classes and selective high schools.

Experts have identified several factors contributing to the imbalance, including resistance from some families to switch schools, the location of OC schools, and the test's emphasis on mathematical reasoning and thinking skills, which tend to favor boys. To address these issues, some suggest adding a writing component to the test, which could play more to girls' strengths. However, they also acknowledge that any test has limitations in fully capturing students' abilities.

Why this matters: The growing gender imbalance in NSW's gifted education program raises concerns about equal access and representation in academically selective classes. Addressing this issue is critical for ensuring that all students, regardless of gender, have the opportunity to reach their full potential and contribute to a diverse and inclusive educational environment.

The competitive nature of the OC placement system has been intensified by the growth of private coaching and the high demand for limited places. A department spokesperson stated, "The department is currently investigating possible changes to the test to encourage more girls to apply and sit the placement test." As the NSW Education Department explores ways to address the gender imbalance, the outcome of their efforts will have significant implications for the future of gifted education in the state.

Key Takeaways

  • NSW investigating changes to Opportunity Class test as fewer girls enroll.
  • Girls' enrollment in gifted classes dropped from 47% in 2017 to 39.5% in 2023.
  • Factors include resistance to school change, location, and test's emphasis on math skills.
  • Experts suggest adding a writing component to address the gender imbalance.
  • NSW Education Dept aims to encourage more girls to apply and sit the test.