This page belongs to: STEM Equity Monitor

Year 12 subject enrolment in STEM and other fields

Australian schools education data looks at enrolments for students by gender and field of education.

This includes STEM fields of education, which are:

  • agriculture, environmental and related studies
  • engineering and related technologies
  • information technology
  • natural and physical sciences, which includes:
    • biological sciences
    • chemical sciences
    • earth sciences
    • mathematical sciences
    • physics and astronomy
    • other natural and physical sciences.

Year 12 subject enrolment

Compare year 12 school subject enrolment numbers for girls and boys in STEM fields, non‑STEM fields and health fields.

Source: Department of Education, 2022; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2001; Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2016.

Data insights

The number of enrolments in year 12 STEM subjects increased from 2020 to 2021 for both girls (up 1,529 enrolments or 0.9%) and boys (up 1,238 enrolments or 0.7%). In contrast, the number of girls enrolling in non-STEM subjects decreased by 603 (0.2%), while the number of boys increased by 1,087 (0.4%).

The proportion of STEM subject enrolments from girls has increased over time. From 2013 to 2021, the proportion of STEM enrolments by girls increased from 45% to 47%. In contrast, the proportion of non-STEM enrolments by girls decreased from 57% to 56% over this time.

The proportion of girls enrolling has increased in most STEM subjects since 2013. The only fields where enrolment by girls decreased were engineering and related technologies and other natural and physical sciences.

In 2021, girls made up a large proportion of student enrolments in:

  • biological sciences (65%, up from 64% in 2013)
  • other natural and physical sciences, such as general or mixed science (57%, down from 61% in 2013)
  • agriculture, environmental and related studies (52%, up from 49% in 2013)
  • earth sciences (51%, up from 47% in 2013)
  • chemical sciences (51%, up from 49% in 2013)
  • mathematical sciences (48%, the same as 2013).

Girls remained underrepresented in:

  • information technology (24% of enrolments, up from 22% in 2013)
  • physics and astronomy (24%, up from 23% in 2013)
  • engineering and related technologies (23%, down from 26% in 2013).

Year 12 enrolments in mathematics subjects, by level

Compare year 12 enrolment numbers for girls and boys in mathematics subjects by level of mathematics subject.

Source: Department of Education, 2022; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2001; Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2016; Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, 2021.

Data insights

We analysed year 12 enrolment data for mathematics subjects in more detail.

The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) identified 4 levels of maths subject. From lowest to highest, they are:

  • elementary (generally non-ATAR)
  • elementary (ATAR)
  • intermediate
  • higher.

ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) is the main criterion for Australian student entry into university. An ATAR subject is eligible to contribute to the calculation of a student’s ATAR.

The total number of enrolments in maths subjects at all levels has decreased for both girls and boys since 2013.

The proportion of enrolments for girls has remained the same or increased for most levels of mathematics subjects since 2013. The exception is elementary (generally non-ATAR) maths, where the proportion of girls has decreased.

For higher mathematics subjects, the proportion of enrolments for girls increased from 36% in 2013 to 37% in 2021. Higher mathematics has the lowest proportion of girls out of all levels.  

About the data

Year 12 subject choice data was provided by the Australian Government Department of Education. The Department of Education derived enrolment information from data supplied by state and territory curriculum, assessment and certification authorities.

Education departments were requested to supply only enrolments in tertiary accredited subjects. VET subjects in schools were included. Mathematics courses included in the elementary (generally non-ATAR) category are tertiary accredited but correspond more closely to Essential Mathematics in the Australian Curriculum.

Data is a count of enrolments only. This means a student enrolled in multiple subjects in the same field will be counted for each enrolment. For example, the same student enrolled in an accounting subject and a business management subject will count as 2 enrolments for the management and commerce field.

Department of Education data included subject name and key learning area (KLA), both of which were supplied by state and territory education departments. To ensure consistency across states/territories and years, we classified all subjects according to the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED).

To make determinations we used the supplied subject name and KLA. We also used the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) School Subject Coder and state and territory curriculum websites to determine subjects where required.

Years refer to the calendar year of enrolment.

Mathematics data is shown by level for subjects in the mathematical sciences field. Information on mathematics subject levels was provided by Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI).

View AMSI resources.

Read more about our methodology and this data.