Education - Gender


Gender - External Factors 1/3

Differences between boys and girls: boys significantly outperformed girls in all levels of education, until the 1990’s — though girls’ educational performance began to improve by 1980 — boys were getting better results in many subjects, they were more dominant in the classroom and often expected to do better than girls; however, girls now outperform boys in many areas and levels of education, and this is a global pattern. 

Also, girls spend far more time on social media than boys - more time communicating with friends - boys tend to be socialised into being adventurous and physical, competitive and sporty, and these are values that conflict with the values of schools and sitting in lessons. Currently, the culture of school demands children listen, conform and sit still for significant periods of time, meaning there are limited opportunities for boys to learn competitively.

Consequences: in recent years traditional manual jobs often carried out by men e.g. mining have been replaced due to advances in technology, and the economy now places great emphasis on office-based jobs, presentation skill and interpersonal skills, which are considered to be more female-friendly skills. In some cases, this has led to some boys feeling removed from both education and work, sometimes known as a ‘crisis in masculinity’, causing boys to lack motivation, have low self-esteem and form anti-school subcultures. 

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Gender - External Factors 2/3

Currently: the gender gap is the widest its been for 10 years - the gap between the number of girls and boys getting A*-C at GCSE is at its highest rate since 2003, with girls achieving higher grades than boys, though boys are achieving a slightly higher number of A* grades. GCSE results in 2014 reveal how female A*-C rate was 73% compared to 64% for males. 

The gap has remained wide since GCSE’s were introduced in 1989 (while the general trend is that both boys and girls results have increased, the gap between two genders has remained the same).  Educational experts argue that the introduction of coursework has contributed to girl’s increased educational outcomes, as girls respond well to the demands and skills that are necessary to be successful in this assessment method. 

How things have changed: over the past 40 years, there has been an increase in the number of women in work from 16 to 64 and a fall in the percentage of men in work - in April to June 2013 around 67% of women aged 16 to 64 worked - there are now more women at university than men, women are beginning to occupy more senior positions in society, women in their 20s are earning more than men in their 20s - this may be due to the number of positive role models. 

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Gender - External Factors 3/3

Causes for these differences: the socialisation of boys and girls outside of school;

Kelly (1987) suggest that the differences in spatial awareness may be attributed to the types of toys children play with rather than their genetic makeup, McRobbie (1991) argues that the bedroom culture of girls where girls can create their own subcultures and chat and read, actually contributes towards their communication skills.

Boys tend to carry out activities which are more physical and do not contribute towards their educational achievement and boys also tend to form subcultures in and outside of school which regard hard-working students negatively, placing pressure on them to maintain an image of completing as little work as possible

Sharpe (1994) found that over time, attitudes of working-class girls have changed. Girls in the 1990s were more inclined towards independence than girls in the 1970s, and these changes in attitude mean that education became a priority, rather than marriage, love and children, as the case of London schoolgirls in the 70s

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Gender - Internal Factors 1/4

Processes within schools contribute towards the patterns of achievement between boys and girls:

  • teacher labelling (leading to more boys feeling like they are not achieving as highly as girls making them more likely to see education in a negative light),
  • the Education Reform Act of 1988 (SATs required sitting still and listening, which girls are more socialised into than boys, CTCs are stereotypically for boys’ ‘naturally gifted’ interests),
  • policies to drive achievement in maths and literacy (boys excel more at maths + struggle in literacy, vice versa for girls, such policies may favour one over the other - girls excelling more at literacy links to bedroom cultures),
  • the feminisation of education (+ more female teachers) makes education benefit girls more than boys

Francis (2000) argues that teachers play a large role in the construction of gender identity in education as well as government policies

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Gender - Internal Factors 2/4

Why girls do so well: evident in external factors, girls find it easier to adapt to a school setting due to socialisation and communication skills, and also place value in the presentation of work, enjoy learning how to improve, spend more time on improving, care about the opinion of teachers, enjoy school life and reading

Policy Introduced to Combat Gender Gap: Machin and McNally (2005) examined the effect of the National Literacy Project - NLP was designed to drive up standards in literacy in all students - teaching methods introduced through this scheme did have an impact on the English skills in boys and Maths skills in girls. Impact was greater for the  weaker subjects for each gender, introduction of the literacy hour appeared to have the greatest impact on boys

Feminisation of Education: more female teachers and more subjects that are seen to be female subjects mean a schools environment is more female friendly with more emphasis on sit and listen behaviour. Girls are more keen to keep school rules and teachers label girls as more likely to succeed, plus there are significant differences in school subcultures between boys and girl; all meaning boys are becoming more and more uncomfortable in the school

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Gender - Internal Factors 3/4

Evidence for internal factors:

  • Forde et al (2006) found that boys are more likely to be influenced by their male peer group, which is more likely to devalue school work, whereas girls do not experience this
  • Boys feel it is important to adopt a view of masculinity which sees academic work as feminine, therefore being seen to work in school can become a problem
  • this type of masculinity directly conflicts with school but to protect their self-worth and masculinity boys will adopt various strategies; putting off work, avoidance of the appearance of work, disruptive behaviour
  • Boys are aggressive/dominant, with a need to feel such, and rebellion works well with their image, meaning they are easily influenced
  • School work is seen as more feminine because girls achieve more highly than boys and are socialised into sitting and listening, and so perhaps can be seen as ideal students, and the masculine image male peer groups adopt disagree with this
  • Their behaviour means boys may find it harder to work in quiet, focused environments, are more likely to achieve lower grades at GCSE, limiting possibilities later in life
  • Also, resilience and perseverance may be weakened
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Gender - Internal Factors 4/4

Gendered subject choices: one difference in education is the subject choice differences between boys and girls in GCSE and A-level - when given the choice boys opt for more ‘masculine’ type e.g science and Maths, whilst girls are more likely to opt for English and subjects that relate to a caring role. Francis (2000) notes that girls have recently caught up with boys in their achievements in science but they continue to outperform them in English and languages

Reasons for Differences in Subject Choices: created gendered identities at school and outside through subcultures, media and the family, peer pressure from both boys and girls, the ‘male gaze’ whereby male teachers and behaviour reflects dominant ideas about masculinity which encourages girls to behave in stereotypically female ways, and gender domains - imagined areas, tasks and activities that are considered male and female

 ^^ all contributes to different subjects by looking more male or female, reinforced by brochures, textbooks and learning styles, as well as Gendered Primary Socialisation - how we are treated by family, giving an indication as to how we should act as a result of gender

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Gender and Educational Achievement Policies

Social policies to improve gender differences - New labour introduced a range of different policies to tackle boys underperformance including:

The Raising Boys' Achievement project (focused on issues associated with the differential academic achievement of boys and girls in school, identifying strategies making a difference to boys’ learning and includes mentoring and target setting)

The Reading Champions scheme (uses peer influence to target readers and increase their enjoyment of reading. Reading champions work towards three levels of achievement - bronze, silver and gold. The framework can be implemented with both boys and girls, but it was recommended that schools run the scheme separately).

Dads and Sons Campaign (primarily aimed at fathers of boys aged 11-14, though relevant to all fathers; aim to increase dads’ involvement in education. The campaign is in response to research that shows boys in this age group are generally under-achieving at school compared to girls, and UK fathers play a minimal role in their education, which has a detrimental effect on their level of attainment.)

There have also been numerous attempts to encourage more men into primary teaching.

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