Penang Institute also found that women outnumber men in seven major fields of study, with education having the greatest gender disparity, among other fields such as science, mathematics and computer studies.
“While Malaysia can be proud of the rapid rate at which the gender disparity between men and women entering university has been closed, the presence of a reverse gender gap in our public universities raises other concerns such as the career trajectory of the ‘missing’ boys and potential negative impacts on crime and other social indicators,” said the research outfit in a statement today.
It said that the Gender Parity Index (GPI), used to measure gender disparity, also increased over the years.
GPI is calculated by dividing the total number of women over the number of men. A score of between 0.97-1.03 shows equal numbers of men and women while anything less or more shows gender disparity. A GPI score of 2.0, for example, means there are twice the number of women compared to men in this institution.
Penang Institute said UM topped a list of five premier universities including Australia, UK, US and Singapore in terms of gender disparity, with a score of 1.63, with the National University of Singapore coming in second but with a more equal score of 1.02.
It said eight local universities have a GPI of over 2.0, indicating that men are outnumbered by more than 2:1.
“The reasons for the this significant and growing gender disparity in the IPTAs are still not well understood in the Malaysian context. One reason could be the academic achievement gap between boys and girls begin that exists from a young age,” it said, citing a Unesco report which found Malaysian girls outperformed boys in key subjects such as English, Mathematics, Science and Bahasa Malaysia.
However, it said despite more females at tertiary institutions, gender discrimination is still serious in Malaysia.
“For example, Malaysia ranks 111 out of 145 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index.”
Still, some areas of study are still the domains of men: Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction.
“However, women in Malaysia have far greater representation in this field compared to many developed nations,” said Penang Institute.