Gender and educational attainment

Sociologists have put forward a variety of explanations as to why there is differential access and attainment regarding males and females within the educational system. I will give an account of these referencing various studies and reports. I will use evidence to support both boys underachievement at GCSE level as well as young women’s underachievement at further and higher education level. I will use further evidence to explain the reasons why this happens.

Since the early 1970’s two of the central concerns of feminists and sociologists of education have been the underachievement of girls and the role played by the education system which was caused by gender inequalities in society. Research has revealed how girls in the past where often disadvantaged in schools and education due to the official and hidden curricula and by attitudes of the teachers and pupils.

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It has been found that the boys in the past received more of the teachers time, interest and attention as it was commonly thought that the males of society would be the bread winners and therefore the girls would not need or use education at the same level as the boys. This is because it was a known fact in the 1970’s that the males would look after the whole family which would include the wife and children and so therefore the women would not be required to work. However since this time evidence now shows that girls are outperforming boys at GCSE level.

This shows those major changes in attitudes and teaching methods has occurred since the 1970’s. Results now show that girls statistically perform better in later stages of secondary school as the GCSE achievements of the girls are well above those of the boys. A statistical bulletin collected by DFE in May on 1995 show that the percentage of girls with five or more GCSE’s at grade A-C has increased from 45. 8% in 1992/93 to 47. 8% in 1993/94, whilst the percentage for boys was 36. 8% in 1992/93 and 39. 1% in 1993/94.

In my opinion this major change in academic results has occurred due to the changing attitudes in society. This change in attitude in my opinion resulted from the female protest for equal rights, which have influenced the government and local authority into creating laws, and acts stating that females should be treat exactly the same as the males in society. These laws and acts stating that woman should have the same opportunities as the males relate to education and also in the work place that was predominantly male.

Since this change in attitude has occurred it has played a key role in enabling girls to fulfil their potential with greater ease than before. Also National projects such as Girls into Science and Technology (GIST) and Girls and Technology Education (GATE) have encouraged girls into enter into areas of education which have traditionally been perceived as ‘male territory’. These initiatives have brought teachers attention to the way science is taught in school and has focused on the importance of making this traditionally male dominated subject more ‘girl-friendly’.

These initiatives, changes of attitudes and also the fact that teaching methods have been improved to suit the needs of the girls have resulted in the females excelling in all subjects and producing better exam results than the boys. Figures now show that this excel in subjects resulting in better GCSE results than boys has lead to two out of three women are in the labor force, 60% of them full-time and that by the year 2000 forecasters predict that more women will be working than men.

The figures prepared for the Equal Opportunities Commission show that 300,000 traditionally ‘male’ jobs in engineering, building and manufacturing will be lost, while 500,000 new ‘female’ jobs in service industries and information technology will be created. This growth in female work force has resulted in limited jobs for the males of society and has created a negative attitude which has resulted from the males believing that there will be less chance of employment after education.

Research by Harris in 1993 into the attitudes of 16-year-olds from predominantly working class backgrounds towards schoolwork, homework and careers confirms that many boys are achieving below their potential. In my opinion this has resulted from the initiatives meant to encourage girls in subjects. I believe this because in my opinion the boys have become less interested in lessons due to many subjects such as English becoming more girl orientated which has lead to the girls becoming more interested and the boys becoming less interested.

This problem could be rectified by creating single sex schools where teachers would use work in all subjects, which would interest and involve the males. Another factor that I believe has demoralized boys is the fact that many there have been a vast decline in traditional male jobs. This may explain why many boys are not interested in education and are under-performing. In my opinion this would result in males and females becoming more equal academically. However this vast gap between girls and boys at GCSE level has no reflect on results A-level and in higher education.

Research shows that while girls perform better at GCSE level they tend to fall behind, being less likely than boys to get the three A-levels required for university entry and less likely to get into higher education. Despite the general pattern of girls out performing boys, there are still many problems that remain for girls. This is because girls tend to take different subject than boys, which in turn influences future career choices. At GCSE level it is evident that girls are more likely to take art subjects where the boys are more likely to take science and technology.

This trend is even more pronounced at A-level and above. I believe this occurs due to old attitudes where it was thought that males would benefit more from these types of subjects, as it was fact in olden days that the males of society were the ‘bread winners’. In my opinion one of the greatest factors that has created this academic gap between the boys and girls is the attitude of the teachers towards each sex. Sociological research has stated that the way the teachers treat and respond to different groups of pupils is a major cause to why boys are under-achieving.

This is because evidence shows that teachers and all members of staff are not as strict with boys as they are with girls. Teachers are more likely to extent deadlines for work, to have lower expectations of boys, to be more tolerant of disruptive, unruly behavior from boys in the classroom and to accept poorly presented work. However I believe that this is not the fact at further education as the expectations placed on the boys are the same as those placed on the girls. I believe this as in my opinion at further education boy’s attitudes become more adult.

I also believe that the strict deadlines placed on boys at further education is pushing the males to full potential as there is a greater urgencies to create work of the highest standard. From the above evidence I can conclude that there are several explanations of male underachievement. Some of the above evidence has focused on family influences for example in the olden days girls developed organizational skills faster and better than the males of society as they where needed/expected in the everyday running of the house when living with their parents or either living with their husband.

This is because multiply tasks were required to be done such as cooking, cleaning and the up bringing of the children. Now-a-days this family influence has helped to women of society to organize their school work better than the males who were never required to develop the organizational skills out of school. The role of teachers and the school are another explanation of male underachievement as evidence shown above states that girls and boys are treat differently in school by the teachers. This is because teachers are not as strict with boys as they are with girls.

Teachers are more likely to extent deadlines for work, to have lower expectations of boys, to be more tolerant of disruptive, unruly behavior from boys in the classroom and to accept poorly presented work. This is causing the boys not to be pushed or forefil their academic potential. Other explanations of male underachievement focus on the impact of wider societal changes and also the peer-group pressure placed on males by other males not to work and in a extreme some develop almost an ‘anti-education’ culture.

Another factor that causes this academic gap is the fact that girls develop faster than boys so therefore at GCSE level the girls pocess a more mature attitude towards school and exams where as the time it comes to A-level or higher education the males of society catch up or over take the females in being more responsible and focused. From this I can also conclude that unless there is a vast change in the education system at GCSE level the educational gap between girls and boys will continue to increase until the point that the females become the dominate sex.