Gender differences in achievement


The gender gap in achievement

  • Before the 1980's - Educational ideology emphasised the domestic role of women, they took subjects that fit their role as wives & mothers, e.g, home economics. 
  • Sharpe; research in the 1970's showed that girl's priorities were 'love, marriage, husbands, children, jobs & careers' in that order.
  • Lobban; school reading material had very sexist & traditional ideas about girls.
  • Women who went to university were seen as more masculine & unnattractive as people believed their ovaries would shrink. 
  • After the 1980's - By the end of year 1 girls are ahead of boys by 7-17% in all seven areas of learning (inc. language, emotional & social development).
  • At GCSE girls are 10-12% ahead of boys.
  • In 2013 47% of girls gained A-B at Alevel, compared to 42% of boys. 
  • Women outnumber men at university, dominating courses considered traditionally male, e.g, medicine or business. 
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External factors of girls achievement

  • Feminism - Has challenged the traditional stereotype of a women's role as solely that of mother & housewife, McRobbie; study of girls magazines in the 1970's found they emphasised getting married & not being 'left on the shelf', these days they encourage an assertive, independent woman which may shape girls ambitions. 
  • Changes in the family - Rise in divorce leads to more matrifocal lone parent families where the mother has to take on the breadwinner role, creating a new role model for girls; a financially independent woman that doesn't need to rely on her husband for money, girls are then encouraged to get their own qualifications. 
  • Women's employment - 1970 Equal Pay Act made it illegal to pay women less than men for work of equal value, the pay gap has halved from 30% -15% since 1975, women are breaking through the 'glass ceiling'. Encourages girls to see future in terms of paid work & explains why number of women in employment has rose from  53% in 1971 to 67% in 2013. 
  • Changing ambitions - O'Connor; study of 14-17 year olds found that marriage & children were not a major part of life plans. Fuller; study, educational success as a central part of girl's identity & aimed for professional careers; they would be able to support themselves. 
  • Class, gender & ambition - Reay; w/c girls may aspire for husbands, children & low paid women's work as that is the reality of their class position. 
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Internal factors of achievement

  • Equal opportunities policies - GIST (Girls into science & technology), non-sexist careers advice is provided & female scientist visit the school, all encourage girls to persue non-traditional careers.
  • The national curriculum removed some inequality because girls & boys do the same subjects, Boaler; barriers have been removed & education is more meritocratic, so girls can now work harder than boys to achieve more.
  • Women are more likely to be teachers & headteachers providing girls with positive female role models, encouraging them to achieve positions of importance. 
  • GCSE & coursework suit girls more than boys, Mitsos & Browne; girls are more successful in coursework because they are more conscientious & better organised than boys. Gorard; the fall in boys achievement has been constant since 1989, when the GCSE was introduced. 
  • Criticism - Elwood; coursework has some influence, yet it is not the only cause of the gender gap because exams count more with final grades. 
  • Teacher attention - Francis; boys get more negative attention from teachers & often recieved harsh discipline, teachers also had low expectations for them. Swann; Girls prefer pair-work & are better at listening/co-operating, so teachers treat them better, leading to SFP that raises girls self-esteem. 
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Internal factors pt2

  • Textbooks & learning materials no longer show women as housewives & mothers, physics books often showed women as being frightened by science, Weiner; now girls are shown more positive images of what women can do. 
  • Jackson; marketisation policies have increased girls desireability to schools who select them instead of low achieving boys.
  • Slee; boys are less attractive because they are more likely to suffer behavioural issues & 4x more likely to be excluded, they are seen as 'liability students', giving the school a 'rough, tough' image that deters high-achieving girls from applying, creating SFP
  • Liberal feminists; celebrate the progress made so far in improving achievement, they believe the continuation of educational policies & positive role models will create further improvement because education is meritocratic. 
  • Radical feminists; girls may be achieving more but the education system is still patriarchal & it is still a mans world. Girls experience sexual harassment, male headteachers are more likely in secondary school, limits on girl's subject choices & career opportunities, Weiner; secondary school history is a 'woman-free zone'. 
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Identity, class and girls' achievement

  • In 2013 only 41% of girls on FSM achieved five A*-C GCSE's compared to the  67% of those not on FSM.
  • Archer; w/c girls achieve symbolic capital by adopting hyper-heterosexual female identities, they wear makeup & focus on their appearance, leading to symbolic violence from teachers who argued it was a distraction. 
  • Having boyfriends which inspired girls to 'settle down', not go to uni & work in low-paid local jobs like childcare. 
  • By being 'loud' they failed to conform to school's stereotype of the 'ideal' female pupil, showing that working class female identity & educational success are in conflict with one another. 
  • 'Succesful' working class girls - Evans; girls wanted to go to university to increase their earning power, only to help their families not themselves. The 'caring' aspect of being a girl causes girls to live at home whilst studying, resulting in their 'self-exclusion' from elite universities. 
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Boys & achievement

  • DCSF; boys have poorer literacy & language skiils, possibly bc parents spend less time reading with their sons & mothers usually do it making it a feminine activity. Also boys choose sports, which has less to do with communication skills than 'bedroom culture'.
  • There are changes in heavy industries, companies are moving to China due to globalisation & boys in the UK to low esteem about future job prospects. 
  • Sewell; education has become 'feminised' & does not value 'masculine' traits of competitiveness and leadership. He believes coursework leads to gender differences in education & the curriculum should contain more outdoor adventure. 
  • There is a shortage of male primary school teachers, Yougov; 39% of 8-11 year old boys have no lessons whatsoever with a male teacher. The boys also said that the presence of a male teacher made them behave & work harder.
  • Criticisms - Francis; 2/3 7-8 year olds believed the teachers gender didn't matter. Read; found that women were just as likely to use disciplinarian discourse as men. 
  • 'Laddish subcultures' - Epstein; 'real boys don't work', if they do they get bullied by peers.
  • Moral panic about boys - Osler; the focus on underachieving boys has led to a neglect of girls bc they quietly get on with work & boys command attention in a 'laddish' way. 
  • Ringrose; it ignores disadvantaged w/c & minority ethnic pupils, also ignoring problems faced by girls in school. 
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Gender, class & ethnicity

  • McVeigh; similarities in girls/boys achievement is much greater than the differences, especially compared to the class gap which is 3x wider at GSCE.
  • Boys & girls of the same social class tend to achieve similar results, which may be 44 points behind those of a higher class. 
  • Fuller; black girls are succesful at school because they define femininity in terms of educational success & independence.
  • Sewell; some black boys fail bc they define masculinity is terms of opposition to education, to avoid being seen as effeminate.
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Gender & subject choice

  • In the National Curriculum d&t may be compulsory but girls will still choose food tech, whereas boys choose graphics or resistant materials. 
  • AS and A levels - Boys choose maths/physics & girls choose sociology, English or languages. Continuing at university, where the Institute of physics; say that the amount of girls choosing physics has been 'stubbornly consistent' at 20% for over 20 years. Also suggesting that policies like GIST have not been so effective. 
  • In vocational courses, 1-100 childcare apprentices are boys. 
  • Explanations - Byrne; teachers encourage boys to be tough & not 'sissies', girls are expected to be quiet, helpful & tidy. Murphy & Elwood; boys are socialised to read hobby/info books, whereas girls read stories about people, explaining why boys like science & girls like English.
  • Gender domains - Browne & Ross; boys feel more confident engaging in tasks about cars or sports, whereas girls feel comfortable with caring, or food activities. Murphy; when tackling the same task grls focus more on how people feel & boys focus on how things are made/work, which is why boys choose science & girls choose humanities/art. 
  • Gendered subject images - Kelly; boys choose science bc teachers are more likely to be men, examples in textbooks usually use things boys are interested in like cars. Colley; ICT works with machines & is taught formally w/ less opportunities for group work.
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Gender & subject choice pt2

  • Single-sex schooling - Leonard; girls in girls' schools were more likely to take maths & science A levels, they were also likely to take 'male dominated' subjects at uni. Also boys in boys' schools were more likely to take English & languages than those at mixed schools. Institute of physics; girls in single-sex state schools were  2.4x more likely to take A-level physics than those at mixed schools. 
  • Peer pressure - Boys may be afraid to take music or dance because the activities fall out of their gender domain, Dewar; found that male US college students would call girls 'lesbian' or 'butch' if they were interested in sport, girls in a mixed setting are unlikely to take 'male dominated' subjects that go against their gender stereotype. 
  • There are gendered career opportunities, sex-typing of occupations lead boys & girls to stick with careers that fit their gender domain. 
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