Gender differences in Education

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The impact of feminism.

The feminist movement has challenged the traditional stereotype of a woman's role in society. Although feminists argue that we have not yet achieved full equality between the sexes, the feminist movement has had considerable success in improving women's rights and opportunities through changes in the law. 

These changes are partly reflected in media images and messages. The changes encouraged by feminism may affect girls' self-image and ambitions with regard to the family and careers. In turn, this may explain improvements in their educational achievement.

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Changes in the family

There have been major changes in the family since the 1970's. These include:

  • An increase in divorce rate.
  • An increase in cohabiting couples and a decrease in the number of first marriages.
  • Smaller families.

These changes are affecting girls' attitude towards education. For example because there is an increased number of female-headed lone-parent families this means more women may have to take the breadwinner role. This turn of events creates a new adult role model for girls- the financially independent woman.

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Changes in women's employment.

  • The 1970 Equal Pay Act
  • The proportion of women in employment has risen from 47% to over 70%.

Prosser- These changes have encouraged girls to see their future in terms of paid work rather than as housewives.

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Girls' changing ambitions

Sharpe- Compared results of interviews she conducted with girls in the 1970's and the 1990's. Her findings show a major shift in the way girls see themselves in the future.

In 1974 the girls that Sharpe interviewed had low aspirations they felt educational success was unfeminine and believed if they appeared to be ambitious and intelligent they would be considered unattractive.

By the 1990's girls' ambitions had changed and they had a different order of priorities- Careers and being able to support themselves.

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