Gender differences in achievement

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In the past, boys out preformed girls, but since 1980s girls have improved more rapidly and now they do better then boys at all levels and in most subjects.

 At key stage 1-3, girls do consistently better then boys, especially in English. In science and math’s the gap is narrower.

 External factors and girls achievement

 The influence of feminism

 Since 1960s feminists have challenged all aspects of patriarchy in social life, and rejected traditional stereotypes of women in home, work and education.

  •  Feminist ideas are likely to have affected girls self image and aspirations. As a result they are motivated to do well in education.

 Girls changing perceptions and ambitions

  •  Sharpe 1994 compared two studies of working class girls at school in 1970s and 1990s.
  •  In 1970 she found girls priorities were ‘love, marriage, children, jobs, career’ They did not see their future as paid work.
  • This is compared to 1990 where priorities had switched to having a career and being independent.

 Changes in the family

 There have been major changes since the 1970s:

  •   An increase in divorce rate to 50%
  • Over 90% of lone parent families are female headed.
  • These changes mean women have more need and more chance of becoming economically independent and this gives them more motivation to do well in education.

 Changes in women’s employment

  •  Women’s employment has risen from under half of married women in 1950s, to three quarters of today.

 Changes in law has improved the working condition of women:

  •  1970 Equal Pay Act and the 1975 Sex discrimination act have given women more rights.
  • Since 1975 pay gap between men and women has halved.

 Internal factors and girls achievement

 Equal opportunities

  •  Feminist ideas about gender equally, boys and girls are capable at achieving the same has become a social norm in the education system.

This had led to policies aimed at giving equal opportunities within education:

  • GIST and WISE to encourage girls into science.
  • The National Curriculum 1988 girls and boys broadly study the same subjects.

 Meritocracy as a result of these policies education is now more meritocratic

 Role models

  •  More female teachers and head teachers that provide a positive, pro – educational role model for girls. This leads to the feminization of education.


  •  Mitsos and Browne 1998 claim girls do better in coursework, since they are more organized.
  •  Gorard 2005 found


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