The persistence of Gender

My aim is to understand why there is a persistence in differences in subject choice between males and females within schools. Previous research on this topic has proved that a significant comparison can be made between ‘A’ level students in which the sciences particularly have become gendered, this will be my major theme and I will aim to investigate why these differences exist. I have chosen to examine this topic further because despite continued attempts to address gender inequalities and biases in education and attainment, qualitative and quantitative research demonstrates the persistence of gender differences in terms of subject choice.

These differences seem increasingly significant in the higher stages of education. (110 words) Contexts and Concepts A major concept that is relevant to my study is that of gender roles. Gender roles have proved amongst various amounts of research to have a persistent effect on subject choice. Factors influencing this could be for example: the cultural idea that masculinity is associated with ‘the ability to lead’ and is seen as instrumental whilst femininity is associated with affection and is seen as expressive. Also the persistence of men being seen in the public realm and womens’ association with the private sphere (motherhood).

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‘The Persistence of Gender Inequalities in Subject Choice’ (Anne Colley 1998). Colley investigated reasons for which subject choices persisted in secondary schools in the late 1990’s. Colley identified gender roles, subject preference and the learning environment as the most significant factors. She argued that the dominant features of masculinity and femininity lead to social roles having a direct influence upon gendered behaviour and used this theory in attempting to reason why girls are more likely than boys to go on to do Biology at A – level. She then concluded that it was down to specific gender roles, eg.

biology is about living things – feminine concern whereas other sciences are more practical-based therefore more of masculine concern. Another set of information that relates to my study is from ‘DFEE – Department for Education ; Employment’ – 1998 Training & Education Stats. The table illustrates a list of entries to ‘A’ level subjects and the percentage comparisons between males and females. This table confirms through the presentation of statistical evidence that the majority of biology students at ‘A’ level are female, compared to other sciences which are more male-dominated.

For example, out of 66,000 biology students 40,200 of those were female and only 25,800 male compared to other sciences such as Physics in which 32,800 out of 43,200 were male and only 10,400 were female. These figures certainly demonstrate the fact that biology is more female-dominated at ‘A’ level. Having considered both of these contexts, an other appropriate concept to be used will be the ‘learning environment’ , for example the conditions of the classroom in which the pupils are studying, the sex of the teacher, girls or boys illustrations on the walls/in textbooks etc.

These various factors add up to what has been termed ‘the hidden curriculum’, ie. informal knowledge being learned of appropriate roles within the classroom and the subject area, which may include gendered, racialised or class positioning in relation to the learning environment. Therefore, a working-class boy may feel more inclined in areas of manual labour, eg. woodwork (427 words) Research Methods The principle research method i will use would involve carrying out strictly-structured interviews in which using a mix of closed – ended questions and open-ended questions will be more beneficial.