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Female and Overall Participation Rates in STEM Subjects

May 21, 2018

Plans were launched in November 2017 aiming for Ireland’s teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to become the best in Europe. Here is a link to the excellent STEM Education Policy Statement, published in November 2017, by the STEM Education Review Group. Two of the aims of this review is to boost participation rates of Leaving Certificate STEM subjects and percentage of female students doing STEM subjects. In this blog, we look at what these numbers look like now.


The below table shows the 2017 participation rate of all non-compulsory subjects, with all STEM subjects highlighted in blue. Though Biology is a much more popular choice than any other Science, it is also the most popular choice of all subjects. 


The next table show the percentage of male/female students doing each STEM subject. Percentages lower than 30% are highlighted in red. Percentage uptake by female students in Physics (26%), Applied Mathematics (26%), Technology (18%), Design & Communication Graphics (13%), Constructions Studies (10%) and Engineering (6%) are all very low.


The next table shows the percentage of female students doing STEM subjects over the past four years. These figures have changed very little over this time. The biggest increase has been in the percentage doing Construction Studies, which has increased from 7% to 10%. This is a 43% increase in female students. Agricultural Science, Design & Communication Graphics and Engineering have also seen some increase in percentage of female participation.

Below we take a look at the participation rates in STEM subjects over the past six years.



In 2017, 61% of students did Biology, 17% did Chemistry, 14% did Physics, 14% did Agricultural Science and 1% did Physics & Chemistry. There have been no statistically significant changes in these figures in the past six years, with each of these percentages varying by at most 2% from these figures. The below graph shows these subjects participation rates for the past six years.




The percentage of students doing Design and Communications Graphics has remained unchanged for the past six years at 10%. The percentage of students doing Technology is unchanged from 2016 at 3%.




The percentage of students doing Engineering in 2017 was 9% in 2017, a 1% decrease compared with 2016. In contrast there was a 1% increase in students doing Construction Studies from 15% to 16%.





Mathematics is, of course, compulsory, so the percentage of students doing Mathematics should always be close to 100%. In 2017 the percentage was 98%. Percentage of students doing Applied Mathematics was 3% from 2012 to 2015 but increased to 4% in 2016.



In general, for the past six years STEM subjects have had no major changes in participation rates. However, we expect to see an increase in the rates of some of these subjects following the implementation of the new STEM policy Statement Education Policy Statement 2017 - 2026.


We provide Leaving and Junior Certificate reports to schools and this year we are offering an additional STEM analysis which will review your school's STEM subjects participation rates and STEM subjects gender participation rates. Click this link for more information on this or contact us if you would like to sign up.


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