The Education Department should carry out more in-depth analysis of gender issues instead of opting for quick-fix quota systems to promote equal opportunities, an overseas education expert has advised. Professor Tony Gallagher of Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, who was in Hong Kong for a conference on gender, said the superior performance of girls in primary school was due to social and cultural rather than biological factors. He cited international research showing that the context in which material was taught also had 'extraordinary consequences' for test results. 'If science problems are in life sciences, girls do better, but if the same problems are in physical sciences, boys tend to do better,' Professor Gallagher said. 'It is an issue of familiarity that leads them to decide whether they can do it or not.' Teachers' expectations could also affect the results of assessments, he said. He urged the Government to look closely at social and cultural factors that are amenable to change rather than assuming fixed biological explanations for gender discrepancies in performance. 'Education should be about opening opportunities, not closing them,' he said. The professor said the Government needed to be 'data-rich' to identify problems.