Gender differences in achievement - Essay

I got an A in this essay, so I thought I'd share it with anyone who wants to use it for revision.

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Item A:
According to Masden Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute, the modular courses and continuous
assessment found in education today favour the systematic approach of girls as against the
risk-taking approach of boys. Pirie argues that the old O level exam (replaced by GCSE in 1998), `with
its high risk, swot it all up for the final throw...was a boys' exam'. By contrast, GCSE, AS and A Levels,
emphasise preparation and modules that can be worked on over time. This favours what Pirie calls the
`more systematic, consistent, attention-to-detail qualities' of girls. In his view, it is not laddish
anti-school subcultures that explains why girls have now overtaken boys, but the examination system.
Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the view that gender differences in achievement
are largely the result of changes in the education system. (20 Marks)
Official statistics ­ like those from the Department for Education Science- have provided
evidence of girls doing better than boys in education, and achieving higher grades. Since 1985/6, the
percentage of girls achieving five or more GCSE grades A*-C or equivalent rose by almost 40% by
2006/7 ­ according to the DfES (2007).
There are many reasons as to why this could be ­ one of the reasons being equal opportunities
policies being introduced. The belief that boys and girls are equally capable, and entitles to the same
opportunities, is now part of mainstream thinking. Policies, such as GIST (Girls Into Science and
Technology) and WISE (Women Into Science and Engineering), have encouraged girls to pursue careers in
non-traditional areas. Moreover, non-sexist career's advice is now given in schools aspiring girls to want
to get well-paid jobs.
According to some sociologists, the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988 has allowed
girls and boys to study mostly the same subjects. This was not the case before ­ so girls can now study to
get careers originally aimed at boys/men. According to Alison Kelly, making Science part of compulsory
core curriculum for all pupils helps equalise opportunities; women can work hard to be doctors ­ a career
traditionally names as a man's job.
Jo Boaler sees equally opportunities policies as the main reason for girls' achievement. She also
says schooling has become more meritocratic; therefore, girls work harder than boys and achieve more.
Another reason for gender differences in achievement could be the fact that there has been an
increase in the number of positive role models in schools; for example, as seen in another course from
the DfES in 2007, the proportion of female teachers, and female head teachers, has increased women in
positions of authority ay act as role models for girls, showing them that women can achieve important
positions in the workplace. In addition to this, in order to become a teacher, an individual needs to have a
long, and successful education ­ resulting in girls studying harder at school; and, therefore, achieving
higher grades.

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The introduction of GCSE examinations and coursework may contribute in the gender differences
in achievement. Stephen Gorard found that in 1975, the gender gap in achievement remained the same;
however, in 1988-9, it increased sharply. This was the year GCSE was introduced. Moreover, in this year,
coursework became a major part of almost every subject. Mitsos and Browne say that girls tend to be
more successful in coursework because they are better organised than boys.…read more

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In conclusion, I would say gender differences in achievement are down to equal opportunities
policies, positive role models in schools, GCSE and coursework, changing stereotypes in the Curriculum,
and selection and league tables. The fact that society's way of thinking, and beliefs about women's role
in society, has influenced girls' achievement.…read more


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