Boys on the other hand showed greater confidence in their abilities because they concluded their failures must be due to a lack of personal effort or unfair assessment by teachers and so took it lightly. Boys observed in the study were criticised more for untidiness in their work, failing to make sufficient effort and misbehaving in the classroom, this gave boys room for improvement whereas girls who did not receive this minor criticism were unable to make excuses for their failure.
Concept Two – Invisible women. Dale Spender, in her book ‘Invisible Women’, suggested that education is largely controlled by men who use their power to dictate masculine knowledge as important, and feminine knowledge as less significant. But she suggests that this dominance of men in the education system as only an example of the larger dominance of men in the outside world with the example of economics and the unpaid domestic work of women as being ignored.
She points out that while the structure of and workings within the education system is not the cause of gender inequality in society – it is still a major contributor towards the inequality of educational opportunity that gives rise to the overall dominance of men and subordination of women. In her study, she tape recorded some of her classes and attempted to consciously divide her time equally between both the boys and the girls of the group, yet when she referred back to the tapes she found only 38% of her time had been spent interacting with girls.
She argues that the boys in the group often dismissed girls’ contributions to discussions and debates, were often insulting to the girls of the group and when they did they were rarely rebuked by the teacher for their behaviour. Also girls had to wait longer to attract the teacher’s attention and so often felt their contributions less important of that of boys, who were more likely to shout out or draw attention to themselves deliberately.
This led girls to play an even smaller part in classroom interactions especially to avoid such confidence damaging criticisms from boys. She concluded that boys thought of girls in the class as less important as themselves, they has learnt to treat girls subordinately from earlier socialisation and the general attitude in society. She concluded that “male dominance in society as a whole was the basic cause of girls’ difficulties in education, but schools help to reinforce that dominance and ensure that it continues”.
Further more “mixed sex education is preparation for ‘real life’… for in real life it is men who dominate and control; but this is not equality of educational opportunity; it is indoctrination and practice” that she feels takes place in schools. Concept Three – Gender differences in further education. Michelle Stanworth studied A level classes in a further education college to see whether teachers’ attitudes would impede the educational progress of girls. It was not only male teachers who these stereotypical and sexist attitudes were confined to.
Teachers were found to recall and name boys in their classes more easily than girls. Quiet boys were remembered and encouraged yet quiet girls seemed able to blend in and make little impression on teachers. When questioned teachers held stereotypical views about the possible futures of pupils. Only one girl was suggested to have the potential to enter a professional career, as she was the most assertive girl in the class (yet she was not the most academically successful).
It was suggested by all the teachers that one of the most significant aspects of the female pupils’ futures would be marriage, while male teachers mentioned marriage and nothing else as the possible future for two thirds of female pupils. When pupils were questioned who received the most attention from teachers they were two and a half times more likely to name boys and that boys were four times more likely to participate in class activities than girls. Boys were also twice as likely to ask a teacher for help and twice as likely to be asked questions by a teacher.
Girls also underrated while boys nearly always overrated their academic abilities. Overall Stanworth found that classroom interactions were significantly disadvantaging girls; they were less encouraged to take part, got less attention from teachers and had less faith in their own ability to achieve. Her conclusions were that teachers were not entirely to blame for this inequality though and pupils contributed to this process – “pupils played an active part in the regeneration of a sexual hierarchy, in which boys are the disputably dominant partners”
Methodology A structured questionnaire was used with closed questions asking about the subjects studied and the reasons why these were chosen for study at A level. An opportunity sample of 9 males and 11 females were used all aged between 16 and 18. They were asked to complete the questionnaire consisting of four questions asking their gender, which A levels subjects they studied, who they felt had most influenced their decision to choose those subjects and if any, which of their current subjects would they consider taking up at degree level.
Then when data had been collected it was calculated for each gender, the total number of participants studying at A level what had been decided a gender appropriate, gender inappropriate or neutral gender subject for that participant. This was done again except for the next question whereby it was calculated how many participants of each gender had given each reason for choosing their chosen subjects. Finally the subjects each gender group said they would consider taking at degree level, including those who said they would not be taking any degree were gathered. This gave some very clear gender differences.
No ethical considerations particularly had to be taken into consideration as it was unlikely to cause any of the participants any offence or harm, although all were fully debriefed after completing the questionnaire and given the chance to withdraw their information from the study. It was not possible to fully explain the purpose of the questionnaire before they had completed it because it may have affected results or even biased them if participants had tried to answer in a way they perceived to be impressive or ‘correct’ to the experimenter. There are many problems with questionnaires and the data found is not always valid.
This is because the participant has to interpret the question and respond appropriately, which can often lead to ambiguity if the questions are not clear using non-specialist language. Sometimes the questions can also be too transparent. Results It was clear from the results that participants mostly studied subjects appropriate to their gender for example boys mostly studied sciences and mathematics while girls mostly studied dance, sociology and languages. Boys were least likely to study a gender inappropriate subject. More girls than boys studied gender inappropriate subjects.