Gender and Differential Educational Achievement

A condensed version of my Sociology notes for AS Sociology of Education regarding gender and education.

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Gender and Differential Educational Achievement
AS Sociology of Education
Until the late 1980's, girls were seen to be underachieving in education, but since the 1990's
girls have outperformed boys in education. In 2002, statistics showed that there was a 10%
difference between the educational attainment at GCSE between boys and girls. More
recent statistics have shown this trend has continued, with a 7.5% difference at GCSE
results in 2011.
A number of reasons could be seen to result in the improvement of girl's achievement
The Job Market ­ a decline in primary industry and an increase in service industry
employment has lead to a decline in employment opportunities for men, while
women's employment opportunities rise. Furthermore, the increase in flexible
perttime work and fixed term contract has further increased women's employment
opportunities. This can be seen as providing girls with an incentive to gain
qualifications and achieve financial independence after leaving education, making
careers for women a much more realistic goal.
Changes in female expectations ­ the changes in employment opportunities now
mean women are looking beyond the role of a housewife. Sharpe's study "Just Like
a Girl" (1976) and the follow up of this in 1994 found that women's aspirations had
changed to look for careers outside of the home and for women to attain
independence.
Feminism and Feminist Sociology ­ the 1970's and 80's saw contribution from
those who drew attention to the need for greater equality of opportunity. Projects
such as G.I.S.T (Girls Into Science and Technology) and antisexism initiatives (such
as single sex classes) raised the consciousness of the idea of equality of opportunity
to both teachers and students.
Organisation of Education the introduction of the National Curriculum meant that
girls could no longer avoid doing science and the introduction of coursework
(controlled assessments) in GCSE and ALevel courses appealed to the
organisational skills that girls possess more often than boys.
Boys Underachievement
Even though there have been improvements in the exam results of boys there is considerable
concern on the failure of boys to achieve their potential in education.
Mac an Ghail suggests working class boys are experiencing a crisis of masculinity,
linked to the decline in primary industry. As a result, boys have retreated into an
aggressive masculine subculture where education is despised as it is associated with
femininity.
Mitsos and Browne found that boys do not do as well in English as they are
expected to because they see it as a feminine subject alien to their way of thinking.
In some families women may be the main break winner, putting traditional masculine
roles under threat.

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There is evidence that some teachers are not as critical of male students because
they have lower expectations of them with regards to behaviour, punctuality, and
quality of work. As such, boys levels of motivation can be argued to be lower, with
many of them seen to be "working hard to fail."
Boys have increasingly been a focus of educational social policy with intiatives such as
Healthy Schools: Raising Boys Achievement and a government website being devoted to the
issue of boys educational underachievement.…read more

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