Last Updated 10 Mar 2020

How can sociologists explain the improvement in the educational performance of girls?

Category education
Essay type Research
Words 1130 (4 pages)
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It is widely argued that gender influences achievement. Sociologists have noticed a difference in the level of achievement in boys and girls under sixteen. Studies show boys do not perform as well as girls in standard subjects in school, girls are now overtaking boys at a higher-level standard. Sociologists noticed this when they saw A' level results and GCSE results, however Post-16 girls tend to drop out of science and technology despite doing better than boys at GCSE. Boys' early literacy skills are markedly lower than girls.

Although sociologists agree that there is a definite 'gender gap' between males and female under sixteen, it is not just a simple case of 'boys doing badly, girls doing well'. The relationship between gender and achievement is much more complex; problems have arose within the area of 'the gender gap', it is not the same in all subjects - boys perform slightly better in GCSE maths than girls. It can not be applied to all levels of education, particularly university where the dropout rate is higher amongst girls; social class and gender affect it.

A variety of reasons have been suggested for the difference between male and females in relation to achievement. Sociologists have attempted to explain firstly why females out perform males in most subjects under the age of sixteen and secondly why females are less likely to enter higher education (post 16 education) despite the fact that female school leavers tend to be better qualified than male ones. It has been suggested that females out perform males because of the following facts, educational policies to help girls over the past twenty years has seen attempts to improve the academic performance of girls.

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Coursework favours girls - course work in many subjects has helped to improve the academic standards of many girls. Girls have higher career aspirations; there is now a greater range of role models in society than in earlier years. In the 1970s Sue Sharpe wrote a book called "Just like a girl" in which she writes that most women then wanted to get married and have children. They did not see the point in staying on at school. There were very few jobs for women in the earlier years - only office jobs, nursing, teaching etc. However in today's' society womens' attitudes towards education have changed.

More girls now want to attend college and university. There are a wider range of careers for women these days - fire fighters, business, design etc. The idea of marriage has become less popular. As there are more job opportunities for girls these days, they need qualifications therefore they need to work harder. There are poorer employment prospects for men in regard to the changes in the traditional male manual work. Male overconfidence in their own abilities causes unrealistic high expectations. Anti-school culture makes boys vulnerable to acting out the 'men behaving badly' role, which in turn places little emphasis on education.

Boys are more likely to not do their homework and go out with their friends, than girls. Boys find it more difficult to stay in and do their work as they might be worried that their friends will think that they are not 'cool'. Girls tend to be more mature. Male literacy problems- it is a fact that boys read and write less than girls. Boys are more interested in their computer games where as girls are more likely to read books. This will help them with their school work. Labelling- teachers are more likely to label boys negatively and create a self-fulfilling prophecy of educational failure.

Teachers more likely to think boys are more disruptive than girls therefore do not give them as much help. Therefore they are more likely to fail the subject. Also the parental expectations of their children differ, boys are expected to be tougher and more boisterous, girls tend to be quieter and neater. They are encouraged to play different games and are given different toys therefore this creates the basis for differences in interests and attitudes. Curriculum differences - there are two levels the ordinary and the hidden curriculum.

Although schools have to offer girls and boys equal access to all courses, we can see that differences emerge. In the past girls were less likely to choose science or computer courses, (it has to be noted that this may not always be the case, especially in more modern times) they were more likely to take home economics, modern languages, social studies and secretarial courses, it is quite normal for 'male' subjects of CDT to be on the timetable at the same time as the domestic science and the office skills subjects, therefore the official curriculum varies by gender.

However these days girls cannot drop out of science and maths. They also take more subjects that boys would take and they have to so GCSE coursework. This helps girls because they are better organised. The hidden curriculum; this is the way that certain ideas and values of the teachers, other pupils and the wider society penetrate through the school. This is not part of the official school lessons. In the past some sociologists argued that as a result of attitudes shown by both parents and teachers girls learn to underachieve.

By this they mean that sex stereotyping occurred in which teachers (and parents) knew what sorts of jobs girls do, and have been traditionally successful in, and they then gear girls to follow courses which lead to careers in these areas. It has been suggested that the main reason why girls perform differently in the educational system from boys is mainly due to the way society and the media creates 'gender roles' which stress how males and females ought to behave.

Magazines and television advertisements portray male and females in different ways making us feel that we have to act like them. There are clear gender roles expected of girls, e. g. to be feminine, to want to marry and to have children and to follow only a relatively narrow range of occupations in nursing and office work, etc. These views are strengthened by the media, which also portray women as sex symbols, nurses or housewives. Sociologists also found that girls were rarely portrayed as the central character and rarely showed initiative.

Boys were far more often shown as the central character and tended to engage in more exciting activities. However girls today want independence, they do not want to be second class citizens. Leisure - When girls have time they like to gossip and have a "chat. " Therefore girls communicate better. This means that girls have better communication and educational skills than boys. In conclusion it is clear that girls are doing better but it is not the whole story because achievement affected by other factors cannot be ignored. These other factors are class and ethnicity.

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