AQA Sociology Gender Differences in Education

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Girls Achievement - External Factors


Feminism have challenged patriarchy in all areas of society since the 1960's and rejected the traditional stereotypes of women as inferior to men.

  • Feminists have had an impact on women's right and opportunities through campaigns to win changes in the law - Equal Pay Act.
  • They are likely to have affected girls self-image and aspirations.
    •  As a result, they are more likely to be motivated to do well in education and gain good qualifications.


Sharpe: interviewed girls in 1970's and found their priorities were a husband, kids, marriage etc and they saw their future in terms of a domestic role. She interviewed them again in the 1990's and their priorities had changed to careers and being independent.

Francis: girls now have high career aspirations and need educational qualifications to get a good career.

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Girls Achievement - External Factors


  • Increase in the divorce rate.
  • More lone parent families.
  • More cohabitation.
  • More women staying single.

Women have more need and opportunity to be economically independent - gives them motivation to do well educationally  and to get good qualifications.


  • More employment opportunities - expansion of the service sector (area of women's work)
  • Changes in the law - gave women more employment rights.
    • Equal Pay Act (1970)
    • Sex Discrimination Act (1975)

Girls have more incentive to see their future in terms of PAID WORK - incentive for gaining qualifications.

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Girls Achievement - Internal Factors


Feminist ideas are widespread in society, the idea boy&girls are equally capable and should have the same opportunities is widely accepted - GENDER EQUALITY.

  • It has become a social norm within education.

It has led to policies aimed at giving both genders equal opportunities:

  • GIST and WISE = encouraging girls into science and technology.
  • The National Curriculum (1988) - girls and boys mostly study the same subjects.

Education is now more meritocratic. Girls now have the same opportunities and are able to do better.


Female teachers/headteachers provide positive, pro educational role models for girls. This also feminises school and encourages girls to see school as part of the female gender domain - percieve educational success as a desirable female characteristic.


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Girls Achievement - Internal Factors


MITSOS AND BROWNE - girls do better than boys in coursework. 

  • Girls are more organised and conscientous, they mature earlier and can concentrate for longer.

Its introduction to the curriculum boosted girls exam results more than boys.


Before the 1980's, females were underrepresented and seen as suborbinate to makles, in domestic roles or unsuited to certain subjects in the past - due to how they were portrayed in textbooks/learning materials.

Since the 1980's, the sexist images have been removed and replaced with positive images of females - has an impact on girls perceptions of what women can do and may raise their aspirations.

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Girls Achievement - Internal Factors


FRENCH & FRENCH - teachers paid girls and boys equal amounts of attention for academic reasons but boys recieved more attention overall for bad behavior.

FRANCIS - although boys recieved more attention, they were disaplined harshly and felt teachers picked on them/had lower expectations for them.

SWANN - boys dominate class discussions and girls prefer group work, are better at listening and cooperating - teachers respond positively to this and encourage them.

SELECTION AND LEAGUE TABLES - schools have an incentive to recruit more able students to boost their results and league table position.

  • GIRLS - more successful than boys, more attractive to schools.
  • BOYS - lower achieving and badly behaved, schools see them as 'liability students' who will give them a bad image and poor results.

Girls are more likely to get places in successful schools, get a better education and achieve more.

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Boys Under-achievement


  • Parents spend less time reading to boys - reading is seen as a feminine activity
  • Boys leisure activities don't encourage language and communication skills - has wide-ranging an effect on their achievement.

GLOBALISATION AND DECLINE OF MENS JOBS - Globalisation has led to the manufacturing industry relocating to developing countries - led to a male 'identity crisis' with loss of motivation and self-esteem. Many boys believe they have little chance of getting a job so stop trying to achieve good qualifications.

LACK OF MALE ROLE MODELS AT HOME - increase in female headed lone parent families means lots of boys are growing up without a positive male role model who works to support the family - these boys may not see the value of education and qualifications

FEMINISATION OF SCHOOLING - school no longer nurtures masculine traits.

  • Assessment has been feminised by the intro of coursework (disadvantages boys).
  • Lack of male primary school teachers - boys may believe its a feminine activity.
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Boys Under-achievement

LADDISH SUBCULTURES - peer pressure on boys to demonstrate their masculinity by being 'anti-school'.

FRANCIS - boys were more concerned then girls about being labelled by peers as it threatens their masculine identity. Working class sees non-manual work (schoolwork) as effeminate and inferior.

EPSTEIN - pro-school working class boys were likely to be harassed, labelled as 'gay' and subject to verbal abuse.

As girls move into masculine areas, like paid work, boys become more laddish to identify themselves as non-feminine - leads to underachievement.

POLICIES TO RAISE BOYS ACHIEVEMENT - use boys leisure interests and famous male role models, they are aimed at improving boys literacy skills and motivation to achieve.

  • Raising Boys Achievement programme.
  • Reading Champions scheme.
  • Playing for Success.
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Gender Differences in subject choice


  • FAMILY - boys and girls are dress differently and given different toys. Boys are rewarded for being active, while girls for beign passive.
  • SCHOOL - BYRNE = teachers encourage boys to be tough and show initiative and expect girls to be quiet, helpful and tidy.
  • LEISURE - MURPHY&ELWOOD = boys read hobby/information books whilst girls read stores about people.

PEER PRESSURE - boys and girls pressurize individuals to conform. Boys opt out of music due to negative peer reponse, whilst girls who choose sport get labelled 'butch' or 'lesbian' by boys as sport is seen as masculinem, and music as feminine.

GENDERED CAREERS - many jobs are seen as 'men's' or 'women's' and tend to be dominated by one gender. E.g. nursing and construction.

GENDERED SUBJECT IMAGES - subjects have a 'gender image' - they are seen as male or female. E.g. science is mainly taught by men, and uses male interests as examples - so its seen as a masculine subject and part of the male gender domain, and is taken mainly by boys.

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Gender Differences in subject choice

GENDER DOMAINS - tasks/activities seen as either male or female territory.

  • They are shaped by childrens early experiences and adults expectations.

BROWNE & ROSS - set a task for boys and girls to design a boat. Boys designed a powerboat/battleship and girls designed a cruise ship.

  • Peoples feelings are a part of the female gender domain - girls choose humanities.
  • How things work are a part of the male gender domain - boys choose science.
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Gender identity and schooling

CONNELL - school reproduces 'hagemonic masculinity' - dominance of heterosexual masculine identity and subordination of females and gay identities.

FEMINISTS - experiences in school act as a form of social control to reproduce patriarchy. This happens in several ways:

  • VERBAL ABUSE - puts girls down if they behave in certain ways, and acts as a form of social control to make them conform to male expectations.
    • LEES = boys call girls 'slags' if they appear sexually available, but their are no equilalent terms for males. They boast about their own sexual exploits, but label girls' negatively for the same behavior.
    • MAC an GHAIL = anti-school working class boys subcultures use verbal abuse to reinforce their masculinity.
  • TEACHERS - HAYWOOD&MAC AN GHAIL = male teachers reinforced gender identities by telling boys off for 'behaving like girls' and ignoring boys verbal abuse of girls.
  • THE 'MALE GAZE' - form of social control where male pupils/teachers look girls up and down as sexual objects. Boys who don't participate are labelled as 'gay'.
  • DOUBLE STANDARDS  - when one set of moral standards is applied to one group but a different set to another group.
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