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
AQA A-Level Sociology: Gender Differences in Education - Internal Factors
1 EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES
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
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
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
2 POSITIVE ROLE MODELS IN
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
3 GCSE & COURSEWORK
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.
18.104.22.168 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.
22.214.171.124 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.
126.96.36.199.1 Mitsos and Browne argue
that these factors have
helped girls to benefit from
the introduction of
coursework in GCSE, AS and
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.
188.8.131.52 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
4 TEACHER ATTENTION
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'
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
4.3.1 This may lead to a self-fulfilling
prophecy in which successful
interactions with teachers promote
girls' self-esteem and raise their
5 CHALLENGING STEREOTYPES IN THE CURRICULUM
5.1 Some sociologists argue that the
removal of gender stereotypes from
textbooks and other learning materials
has removed a barrier to girls'
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
184.108.40.206 Gaby Weiner (1995) argues that since the
1980s, teachers have challenged such
220.127.116.11.1 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 SELECTION & LEAGUE TABLES
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
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
7 TWO VIEWS OF GIRLS' ACHIEVEMENT
7.1 Liberal feminists
celebrate the progress
made so far in
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.
18.104.22.168 This is similar to the
functionalist view that the
education system is meritocratic
regardless of gender, ethnicity or
7.2 Radical feminists
emphasise that the system
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.
22.214.171.124 Women's contribution to history is
largely ignored. Weiner (1993)
describes the secondary school
history curriculum as a 'woman-free