AQA A-Level Sociology: Gender Differences in Education - Internal Factors

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All credit goes to the 'AQA A Level Sociology Book One [Including AS Level]'. Any opinions expressed are the opinions of the sociologists mentioned. Author credits: Rob Webb, Hal Westergaard, Keith Trobe and Annie Townend

Rhiann .
Created by Rhiann . over 2 years ago
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AQA A-Level Sociology: Gender Differences in Education - Internal Factors
1.1 Feminist ideas have had a major impact on the education system. Policymakers are now much more aware of gender issues and teachers are more sensitive to the need to avoid stereotyping.
1.1.1 The belief that boys and girls are entitled to the same opportunities is now part of mainstream thinking and it influences educational policies.
1.2 Policies such as GIST (Girls Into Science and Technology) and WISE (Women Into Science and Engineering) encourages girls to pursue careers in these non-traditional areas.
1.3 The introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988 removed one source of gender inequality by making girls and boys study mostly the same subjects.
1.4 Jo Boaler (1998) sees the impact of equal opportunities policies as a key reason for the changes in girls' achievement. Many of the barriers have been moved and schooling has become more meritocratic, so that girls, who generally work harder than boys, achieve more.
2.1 There has been an increase in the number of female teachers and heads. These women in senior positions may act as role models for girls, showing that women can achieve positions of importance and give them non-traditional goals to aim for.
2.1.1 Female teachers are likely to be particularly important role models as far as girls' educational achievement is concerned. This is because to become a teacher, the individual must undertake a lengthy and successful education herself.
3.1 Some sociologists argue that changes in the way pupils are assessed have favoured girls and disadvantaged boys.
3.1.1 Stephen Gorard (2005) found that the gender gap in achievement was fairly constant from 1975 until 1989, when it increased sharply. This was the year in which GCSEs were introduced, bringing with it coursework as a major part of most subjects. Gorard concludes that the gender gap in achievement is a "product of the changed system of assessment rather than any more general failing of boys".
3.1.2 Eirene Mitsos and Ken Browne (1998) believe that girls are more successful in coursework because they are more conscientious and better organised than boys. Girls spend more time on their work; they take more care with the way it is presented and are better at meeting deadlines. Girls also bring the correct equipment to lessons. Mitsos and Browne argue that these factors have helped girls to benefit from the introduction of coursework in GCSE, AS and A level.
3.2 Oral exams have also benefitted girls due to their generally better developed language skills.
3.3 Sociologists argue that girls' characteristics and skills are the result of early gender role socialisation in the family.
3.3.1 Girls are more likely to be encouraged to be neat, tidy and patient. These qualities become an advantage in today's assessment system, helping girls achieve greater success than boys.
3.4 However, Jannette Elwood (2005) argues that although coursework has some influence, it is unlikely to be the only cause of the gender gap because exams have much more influence than coursework on final grades.
4.1 The way teachers interact with girls and boys differs.
4.1.1 Jane and Peter French (1993) analysed classroom interaction and found that boys received more attention because they attracted more reprimands.
4.1.2 Becky Francis (2001) found that while boys got more attention, they were disciplined more harshly and felt picked on by teachers, who tended to have lower expectations of them.
4.2 Swann (1998) found gender differences in communication styles. Boys dominate in whole-class discussion, whereas girls prefer pair-work and group-work, and are better at listening and cooperating.
4.2.1 When when working in groups, girls' speech often involves turn taking, unlike the hostile interruptions often involved in boys' speech.
4.3 These studies may explain why teachers respond more positively to girls, whom they see as cooperative, than to boys whom they see as disruptive.
4.3.1 This may lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which successful interactions with teachers promote girls' self-esteem and raise their achievement levels.
5.1 Some sociologists argue that the removal of gender stereotypes from textbooks and other learning materials has removed a barrier to girls' achievement.
5.1.1 Research in the 1970s and 80s found that reading schemes portrayed women mainly as housewives and mothers, that physics books showed them as frightened by science, and that maths books depicted boys as more inventive. Gaby Weiner (1995) argues that since the 1980s, teachers have challenged such stereotypes. In general, sexist images have been removed from learning materials. This may have helped to raise girls' achievement by presenting them with more positive images of what women can do.
6.1 Marketisation policies have created a more competitive climate in which schools see girls as desirable recruits as they achieve better in exams.
6.2 David Jackson (1998) notes that the introduction of exam league tables has improved opportunities for girls: high-achieving girls are attractive to schools, whereas low-achieving boys are not.
6.2.1 This tends to create a self-fulfilling prophecy - because girls are more likely to be recruited by good schools, they are more likely to do well.
6.3 Roger Slee (1998) argues that boys are less attractive to schools because they are more likely to suffer from behavioural difficulties and are four times more likely to be excluded.
7.1 Liberal feminists celebrate the progress made so far in improving achievement.
7.1.1 They believe that further progress will be made by the continuing development of equal opportunities policies, encouraging positive role models and overcoming sexist attitudes and stereotypes. This is similar to the functionalist view that the education system is meritocratic regardless of gender, ethnicity or class.
7.2 Radical feminists emphasise that the system remains patriarchal.
7.2.1 For example, sexual harassment of girls continues at school; education still limits girls' subject choices and career options; male teachers are still more likely to become heads of secondary schools; and women are under-represented in many areas of the curriculum. Women's contribution to history is largely ignored. Weiner (1993) describes the secondary school history curriculum as a 'woman-free zone'.

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