Equal opportunities policies
In recent years there has been an emphasis on equal opportunities in schools.
Policies like GIST (girls in science and technology) and WISE (women into science and engineering), aimed to encourage girls into areas that were traditionally seen as ‘male areas’.
The introduction of the national curriculum in the 1988 Education Reform Act, also made it possible for everyone to study the same compulsory subjects.
Positive role models in schools
In recent years there has been an increase in the proportion of women occupying the role of Head teacher.
These can act as positive role models for girls and something to strive for and to see other roles for them that are different from the housewife role.
Primary schools in particular have become ‘feminised’ with mostly female staff. This could have an impact in the gender role socialisation process.
Internal factors continued…
GCSE and Coursework
The introduction of GCSE (1988) brought with it coursework.
This change has been argued to benefit girls over boys.
Miitsos and Browne (1998) argued that girls are more successful at coursework because they are more organised and conscientious.
This could come from early gender role socialisation, where girls are more likely to be encouraged to be neat and patient.
Challenging stereotypes in the classroom
Some sociologists would argue that the removal of stereotypes from textbooks have helped remove barriers to girls learning.
Gaby Weiner(1995) argues that since the 1980’s teachers have begun to challenge stereotypes.
Teachers attention and classroom interaction
Dale Spender (1983) found that teachers spend more time interacting with boys. However teachers tended to interact with girls in a more positive way as they were seen a more co-operative. This could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy .
Boys and achievement
• Previously we have looked at girls and achievement and focused on some possible reasons as to their improvement.
• The focus of this lesson will be on boys and achievement. We will look at some of the possible reasons for why certain boys are underachieving in education.
• There has recently been concern about certain boys who seem to be underachieving and falling behind. Is this a real problem or is it more of a media panic.
• When examining this issue it is important to recognise that it is not all boys that are underachieving.
• Boys are generally doing better than they have done in the past.
• When it comes to boys underachievement, class and ethnicity tend to play a big part ( working class , Afro-Caribbean boys tend to underachieve in particular).
• Look below, to find an article on boys achievement in education (archive section)
Reasons for boys underachievement
1) ‘Laddish’ subcultures
2) Parental attitudes and primary socialisation
3) Introduction of GCSE’s
4) Behavioural problems
5) Boy’s over-confidence
6) Decline of traditional male jobs
‘Laddish’ subculture –
Some boys may gain peer group status from having an ‘anti-school’ subculture (when you mess about, don’t think schools important etc). Willis and his study of the ‘lads’ looked at a working class ‘anti-school’ subculture. Mac an Ghaill (1994) identified 4 male subcultures including the ‘macho lads’.
However, is this anything new, can this really be used as an explanation for recent underachievement, when it was happening in the 1970’s.
Parental attitudes and primary socialisation –
There is an argument that parents spend less time with their sons reading. This then comes to be seen as a feminine activity. Harris et al (1993) researched the attitudes of working class girls and boys and found that boys tend to be less motivated and organised.
They concluded these attitudes were down to the ‘gender regimes’ they encountered in their homes. Girls were exposed to females who were organisers (housework, childcare etc) where as boys were exposed to males who were regarded as the ‘macho male’ with no regard for authority.
Introduction of GCSE’s –
•It has been argued that girls benefit from the design of GCSE’s, whereas it is a disadvantage to boys.
It is argued boys don’t cope so well with coursework (being organised and motivated) and that boys deal with abstract information better (GCSE’s aren’t designed in this way).
• However, coursework is often only a small percentage of the overall grade, so it’s unlikely this is the only factor in boys underachievement.
Behavioural problems –
Boys tend to have more behavioural issues, and are more likely to be disruptive in class and excluded.
This could lead to teacher labeling and possibly the self-fulfilling prophecy.
However, students can and do reject their labels. This also applies to a reasonably small percentage of boys.
Boy’s over confidence –
There is an argument that boys are over-confident in their abilities, which may mean they prepare less for exams. Feminist may argue that this comes from the wider attitude of a patriarchal society (male dominated). So boys don’t put in the effort because there is an assume that as males they will be successful anyway.
However, there is an argument that some boys have low self-esteem and do not believe that they will automatically do well just because their boys.
Decline of traditional male jobs –
The decline of traditional ‘men’s’ jobs (manual work), has lead some boys to think that they don’t have any prospects once they leave school, so give up trying to get any qualifications.
Mac an Ghaill (1994) stated that there is a ‘crisis of masculinity’ as traditional working class male roles are under threat as women become the main breadwinners.
Gender differences - Conclusion
As we have seen over the last 2 lessons, there are significant differences between girls and boys achievement in school.
Both girls and boys have improved over the last few decades.
Girls are currently outperforming boys, at most levels and in most subjects (even traditionally male subjects).
However, it is important to remember that it is not just gender that plays a part in whether someone fails or succeeds in school. Social class and ethnicity are important as well (working class, Afro-Caribbean boys statistically are the student’s who underachieve the most).
Sociologists are also concerned with some of the reasons why there continues to be a traditional pattern of ‘boys’ subjects and ‘girls’ subjects.