The Gender Gap in Education

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Discuss the concept of ‘the gender gap’ and its adequacy in representing gendered differences in school level attainment.

The gender gap is “the discrepancy in opportunities, status, attitudes, etc., between men and women” (Oxford dictionary, 2012) which still exists in the ever equalizing world in which we live in today. The gender gap appears in several areas in society such as in politics, employment and education although gender inequalities have the biggest impact on education policies (Marsh, 2009). Though in the anti-sexist or girl centered approach has the education of the boys been neglected. It can be seen that these sexist scars are the attitudes from the past where men would make the money to support the family and women would take care of the children and the home. Going back to the 1800s women were not even recognised as first class citizens thus limiting them to work not only outside of their family homes but in the economic market. It was only during World War I and World War II that women began to work in men’s positions to fill vacancies left by those who had gone to war; with the development of household technology dissolving positions in the domestic industry women had more time, opportunities as well as a wider range of jobs to find work. It was said that 'the war revolutionised the industrial position of women - it found them serfs and left them free' (Fawcett, 1918). Education also began to change as “at the beginning of the twentieth century, less than a quarter of all British girls aged between twelve and eighteen attended any kind of school, but by 1920 the number receiving a secondary education had risen from 20,000 in 1897 to 185,000” (Anon, n.d). The sex discrimination act of 1975 meant more equal access for different genders. Discrimination in entrance to schools was dismissed and the appointment of multi gendered teachers introduced. By 1994, Wilkinson described the change as the ‘genderquake’ due to the momentous shift in attitudes and achievements in this new generation of women (Marsh, 2009). However there is still a significant difference in exam grades between girls and boys and a noteworthy preference to the subjects chosen by different gendered students as found in many reports. In primary education the gap is shown through results though many believe that girls mature quicker than boys, which gives them an advantage in exams and early years of learning. In the 1970s girls had to get better grades than the boys to be accepted by grammar schools as it was assumed that boys would catch up when they grew older (Marsh, 2009). In a study of 5 year olds carried out by the Department for Children, Schools and Families it was found that “Girls outperform boys at most levels with 78% of girls able to hold a pencil and write recognisable letters, compared with 62% of boys” (Lipsett, 2009). Performance of girls in primary schools has been narrowed to their manner of behaviour, in that young girls are generally harder working, attentive and polite and like to please the teacher and their peers. Conversely boys are notoriously known for being disruptive, distractive and to act out to be accepted by the other boys in their class. A study mentioned in the Guardian attribute a measure of boys not doing as well due to the teachers 'fuelling gender gap by stereotyping boys as badly behaved.' The article discusses how terms such as ‘silly boy’ and ‘schoolboy pranks’ lead to the children believing in a self-fulfilling prophecy (Telegraph, 2010). This could be true as children at that age are highly induced with the attitudes and ideas of those of a higher status whom are around them a significant about of them time growing up. Other exterior influences could also contribute to behaviour and gender education differences for example the involvement of parents. “As is only natural, in many families fathers have more interests in common with sons and mothers with daughters” (Anon, 2013) of course this...
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