Gender Differences in Achievement

HideShow resource information

Internal Factors

Positive Role Models

- Increase in female teachers & heads

-To become a teacher must undertake lengthy & successful education

- Women - senior positions - Shows women can achieve positions of importance

GCSE & Coursework

- Gorard - Gender gap in achievement - fairly constant from 1975-1989

- Mitos & Browne Girls = more successful

- Girls = more conscientious & organised, qualities become an advantage in todays education system. 

1 of 21

Internal Factors

Equal opportunities Policies

Feminist ideas = major impact on education 

  • Teachers - more sensitive to need to avoid stereoyping 
  • Boys & girls = entitled to same opportunities & influences educational policies 

Gist & Wise 

  • Encouraging girls to persue career in science 
  • Interests have been developed
  • Schooling = more meritocratic 
  • Girls who work harder than boys achieve more 
2 of 21

Internal Factors

Teacher attention

Francis (2001)- boys get more attention & are disciplined harshly & feel picked on by teachers 

French (1993) - Boys receive more attention & more reprimands 

Swann (1998) - Gender differences in communication 

  • Boys dominate 
  • Girls prefer paired work & take turns to talk & cooperate 
  • Teachers respond positively to girls 
  • Leads to self-fulfilling prophecy 
  • Promotes self esteem & raises achievement 


3 of 21

Internal Factors

Selection & League Tables 

Marketisation policies - more competitive climate as schools see girls as more desirable recruits

  • Achieve better results

Jackson (1998)

  • League tables - opportunities for girls
  • High achieving girls are attractive to schools
  • Low achieving boys are not
  • Creates a self-fulfilling prophecy

Slee (1998)

  • Less attractive to schools
  • Behavioural difficulties & 4x more likely to be excluded
  • Image deters high achieving girls from applying
  • Boys - liablity to school improving league tables  
4 of 21

External Factors

Impact of Feminism 

  • Social movement that strives for equality for women in all areas of life 
  • Feminist movement = success in improving womens rights & opportunites through changes in law etc


  • Study of magazines 
  • 1970s - emphasised importance of getting married 
  • Now women are being more assertive 
  • Raised self esteem & expectations 
  • Affect girls self image & ambitions with regard to family 
  • Explains improvement in their educational achievement 
5 of 21

External Factors

Change in Family 

Major changes since 1970s

  • Increase in divorce 
  • Increase in cohabitation & decrease in first marriages 
  • Smaller families 
  • Increase in lone parent families 

Changes are affecting girls attitudes towards education 

  • Increase in female headed lone parent families - role model 
  • Well paid job = need good qualifications 
  • Encourages girls to look to themselves & own qualifications to make a living 
6 of 21

External Factors

Changes in Women's Employement 

Changes encouraged girls to see their future in terms of paid work rather than a house wife 

  • Role models & successful career women provide incentives for girls to gain qualifications 

1970 Equal Pay Act 

  • Illegal to pay women less than men for work of equal value 

Proportion of women in employement has risen from 53% in 1971 to 67% 2013 

Growth & flexible part-time work has offered opportunities for women

7 of 21

External Factors

8 of 21

Boys & Achievement


The gender gap is mainly the result of poorer literacy & language skills 

  • Parents may spend less time reading to their sons 
  • Leisure pursuits e.g. Football do little to develop their language & communication skills 
  • Poorer language & literacy affects them across all subjects 
9 of 21

Boys & Achievement

Globalisation on Boy's achievement 

Globalisation of Economy 

  • Led to much of the manufacturing industry relocating to developing countries e.g. China 

Mitos & Browne 

Indentity crisis for Men 

  • Believe they have little prospect for getting proper job 
  • Undermines their motivation & self esteem & give up trying to get qualifications 
  • However decline in these jobs may not have much of an impact on boys achievement
10 of 21

Boys & Achievement

Feminisation of the Education system - Sewell

  • Boys fall behind because education is feminised
  • Schools do not nurture masculine traits (competitiveness & leadership)
  • Celebrate qualities more closely associated with girls
  • Suggests more emphasis on final exams & outdoor adventure in curriculum
  • Coursework - major cause of gender differences in achievement

Shortage of Male teachers

  • Lack of male role models both at home & school = cause of boys underachievement
  • 14% primary school teachers are male


  • Most boys surveyed - presence of male teachers made them feel better
  • 42% makes them work harder 
  • Culture of primary school has become feminised - unable to control boys behaviour
  • Male teachers - more able to impose strict discipline on boys that they need to concentrate 
11 of 21

Boys & Achievement

Laddish Subcultures

Epstein - Examined way masculinity is constructed within school  

  • WC boys are more likely to be harassed, labelled as sissies & subject to homophobic verbal abuse

Francis - Laddish subculture is becoming more widespread

  • Girls are moving to masculine areas e.g. careers
  • Boys respond by becoming increasingly laddish to construct themselves as feminine
  • Boys were more concerned about being labelled than girls
  • Label is more of a threat to their masculinity
  • WC culture masculinity - equated with being tough
  • Manual work, school work = effeminite & inferior
  • WC tend to reject school work
12 of 21

Differences in Gender and subject choice

Gender Role Socialisation

Process of learning the behaviour expected of males & females in society

Gender domains

  • Browne & Ross
  • Tasks & activities  boys and girls see as male / female territory
  • Children are more confident when engaging tasks that are part of their domain
  • Murphy (1991)
  • Same task - pay attention to different details


Boys & girls dressed differently from an early age & had different toys


Teachers encourage boys to be tough & show initiative,Girls are expected to be quiet, helpful etc.

13 of 21

Differences in Gender and subject choice

Gendered Subject Images

Kelly argues science =boys because teachers are male & textbools - interests boys

Boys dominate the lab

Cohley (1998)

Machines = male gender domain

Way it is taught = off putting to women

Single sex schooling

  • Less traditional subject choices = less stereotyped subject images

Leonard (2006)

  • Girls = more likely to take maths & science A-levels
14 of 21

Differences in Gender and subject choice

Girls & boys develop differents tastes in reading

Murphy & Elwood (1998)

  • Leads to different subject choices
  • Boys = hobby books
  • Girls = read stories


Paechter (1998) - Girls = see sport as male gender domain

Dewar (1990) - American college students,Girls = 'butch' or lesbian

15 of 21

Pupils Gender & Sexual Identity

Verbal Abuse

Paechter - Helps to shape gender identity & maintain male power

Parker - Boys = labelled as gay for being friendly with girls

- Labels reinforce gender norms & identities

Male Gaze

  • Form of surveillance through which dominant heterosexual masculinity is reinforced
  • Femininity is devalued
  • Way boys prove masculinity to friends (sexual conquests)
  • Boy who do not display heterosexuality = labelled gay
16 of 21

Pupils Gender & Sexual Identity

Teachers & Discipline

Haywood & Mac (1996)

Male teachers = boys punished for behaving like girls

Ignore boys verbal abuse towards girls - blamed girls for attracting attention

Ross & Askew

Male teachers behaviour = can subtly reinforce messages about gender

Double Standards

Sexual morality which boys boast about their own sexual exploits however they will call a girl a ****

Feminists = this is an example of patriarchal ideology it justifiies male power & devalues women

17 of 21

Pupils Gender & Sexual Identity

Male peer Groups

  • Verbal abuse to reinforce their definitions of masculinity
  • Boys in anti-school subcultures = accuse boys who want to do well at school as 'gay'

Mac & Ghaill

  • Peer groups reproduce a range of different class based masculine gender identities

Redman & Mac & Ghaill

  • Dominant definintion of masculine identity changes from macho lads in lower school to real Englishmen in sixth form
18 of 21

Female Identities


  • Middle class female boffins - respond in kind by defining other WC girls as chavs


  • Being popular = crucial to girls identity
  • Girls made transition from girls friendship culture into heterosexual dating culture

Idealised Feminine Identity

  • Showing loyalty to female peer group - being non-competitive & getting along with everyone

Sexualised Identity

  • Involved competing for boys in the dating culture
19 of 21

Female Identities

'Boffin Idenity'

  • Girls who want to be successful educationally feel need to conform to schools notion of ideal feminine pupil identity
  • Reay - Found it involved girls having to perform an asexual identity, presenting themselves as lacking any interest
  • As a result they risk being given identity of 'boffin' & excluded by other girls


  • WCG gain SC from their female peers
  • By performing hyper-heterosexual feminine identity
  • By constructing a glamorous / **** NIKE appearance
  • if girls fail to conform the risk being unpopular
20 of 21

Female Identities


  • Argues that while relationships with boys can confer SC = high risk game
  • Girls = forced to perform a balancing act between 2 identities
  • Girls who are too competitive & think they are better than their peers face '**** shaming'
  • On the other hand girls who don't compete for boyfriends = face 'frigid shaming'
  • Shaming acts as a social control device
21 of 21


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Education resources »