Education has the unique ability to promote social change and personal wellbeing. The Western world consider education a fundamental human right to promote personal freedoms and achieve individual success in professional areas which is the main factor for the future development of the country, also very important key to equal opportunities and the hierarchy to progression (Weiner,1986). In studying gender inequalities, we discover not so much desire for changes. Historically, girls were left out and put aside, but in recent years girls have overtaken boys. According to the nineteenth century domestic division of labour, made girls destined for housework and child raising, no need for education beyond elementary level. At this time elementary education was compulsory for all children up to the age of 10, skills taught were told apart by gender. Boys learning elementary mathematics and profession skills, girls learning domestic skills. For girl’s education was considered not necessary and there were supposed to stay at home with their mothers, helping them with domestic skills (Abbott and Wallace 1990). Secondary schools for girls were well-known by the beginning of the twentieth century but still the number of girls were far less then the boys one. In nineteenth century females were excluded from universities. In 1878 University of London was the first one allowing girls to take degrees. Oxford and Cambridge were slow to open their doors to females. Females were not allowed to take full degrees until 1920 in Oxford and in Cambridge 1948. The Education Act 1944 made secondary school free and available for both genders but this did not mean then boys and girls will have the same curriculum. The introduction of a national curriculum in the 1980s neutralised this to some extent by creating the same curriculum for both genders up to age 16.
Despite efforts to counter gender inequality problems in the United Kingdom, it is still possible to see inequality in the British education system. Some of these problems are structural and other one’s are caused by wider society. Inequality in education system can lead to inequality when the pupils grown up, with consequences in terms of future employment prospects. Recent data analysis suggests that boys are struggling to keep up with girls at key curriculum discovery (www.gendertrust.org.uk/gender-inequality-in-the-british-education-system/).
Findings from the longitudinal study, Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) which studied a national sample of over 3000 young children between ages of 3 -7 years old, and their parents which were in charge to examine their children’s intellectual and social/behavioural development. Children joined a variety of 141 preschool backgrounds (playgroups, private day nurseries, local authority day nursery, maintained nursery schools and nursery classes as well as groups who had no or very little pre-school experience). Girls in general showed better social development than boys, especially in cooperation/conformity and independence and concentration, as well they showed higher achievement on all cognitive results. The researchers also found that home learning environments were different between boys and girls. Considerably more girls’ parents reported activities such as reading, teaching rhymes and nursery songs. It was impossible to launch whether these self-reported differences in parenting mirrored different outlooks of boys and girls, or gender differences in the behaviours and interests of pre-school children. Nevertheless, some aspects of the home learning during that period presented substantial independent positive effects on achievement and social behaviour at age 7 years old (end of Key Stage 1). Then some of the gender differences in cognitive and social/behavioural outcomes at primary school admission may in part be accredited to differences in the quality of home learning environment. In terms of the effect of pre-school delivery, the study found that boys mostly showed huger progress in early number concepts if they attended high quality pre-school anticipation. Even though this suggests that raising the quality of pre-school running could help encourage boy’s achievement levels in early maths skills, the fact that it did not improve early literacy skills is disappointing for addressing the area of greatest gender inequality. (Sylva, K., Melhuish, E., Sammons, P., Siraj-Blatchford, I. & Taggart, P. 2004 Effective Provision of Pre-school Education, EPPE Project: Final Report – A Longitudinal Study Funded by the DfES 1997-2004).
By Key Stage 2 (7 to 11-year olds) girls are moving faster than boys in their test scores. Around 83% of girls achieved a level 4 or even better score, although only 77% of boys in the same age group were able to achieve level 4 or higher. These tendencies carried on up to GCSE level, where around 10% more girls earning 5 or more A*- C grades than boys who were reaching the same standard. Now, there is a difference between the number of male and female school-leavers applying for further studies. Females from deprived backgrounds are 58% more likely to apply for further studies than males from the same background. UCAS data submits that female school-leavers in England are 35% more likely to apply for further study than their male peers. Another inequality problem is the difference in levels of female and male who are employed as teaching and support staff in the British education system. In primary schools only 15 % of teachers are male, meaning that many children are missing a positive male role model in their educational curriculum, even worse some schools do not have any male staff members at all. Most of the schools say that they wold like to hire more male teachers and support teachers, however fewer men apply for teaching place. The Department of Education is discussing strategies to encourage male teachers to consider a wider range of subjects as well they want to retain and employee more of them in schools. About 38% of teachers in secondary schools are male, but there is gender inequality on the subjects taught by male teachers. They are more likely to be specialised in (science, technology, PE, mathematics and engineering) and female teachers are more likely to teach languages and humanities. Teenage girl students find it hard and most of the time put the girls of because they think that male PE teachers cannot understand their needs properly. Study also suggests that male teachers are more likely to be employed in high ranking roles in school environment such as Head Teacher or even higher and the females are more likely to see their role in education as vocational and prefer teaching or managerial roles even though the pay grade for this role is lower. Seeing this as a big disadvantage, the major challenges for the education system is offering and making high roles like Head Teacher or Head of Department roles more appealing to female applicants.
However, feminists argued that science was taught in manly way. This kind of debate represents the conflict between the liberal and radical movements in feminism. Liberal feminists are looking for equal opportunities for females in the existing system, otherwise are looking radical feminists, they argue that this results in females thinking and behaving like males. According to them, manly way of thinking and behaving should be replaced by feminine ones. Spender and Stanworth research (1982-1983) showed the importance of different gender role expectations in the classroom. Girls got less interest and attention than boys. Boys have a tendency to receive higher marks than girls for identical work and were expected to do better in examinations. These expectations are not expected only from the teachers but from the children’s as well. Some think that girls would be better of in schools for girls only or in classes which are attended only by girls in a mixed gender schools. In late 2008 the Schools Minister argue that separating the gender for science teaching would make more girls frequenting science and engineering courses. Professor Alan Smithers believes that research does not provide any strong evidence that girls perform better when taught on their own (Independent, 25 and 26 November 2008). Lately girls have achieved better than boys at A level. Has been reported in 2009 that the higher education participation rate for women was 49%, and men 38%. Also, while 64% of women obtained first or upper seconds, men did only 60% (Higher Education Policy Institute, 5 June 2009).
Firstly, the claim that attempts to frustrate educational discrimination against girls have worked. These includes such initiatives as GIST (Girls into Science and Technology) and the introduction of single-sex classes. Generally, has been a big awareness of, and sensitivity to, gender issues in schools. Secondly, the argument that changes in assessment have resulted in better results for girls. They tend to perform better at coursework, though boys do better when assessment is by invisible examination. Increasing use of course work may have led to the better success for girls. There are also signs that a shift from assessment by coursework back to assessment by invisible examination may have recently reserved this tendency at GCSE level (Independent, 27 August 2009). Whether this could account for the extent of the change in entry to higher education must, nevertheless be uncertain. The bigger argument that changes in relationships of employment reason for the higher performance for girls. In 2000 the government launched experimental schemes to provide separate classes for boys, in order to bring back discipline and improve results. The big concern about boy’s examination presentation has been convoyed by an alarm with their much higher rate of exclusion for disobedience. In recent years in English schools the rate of exclusion for boys has been four times higher then the rate for girls. However, possibly too much attention has been paid to boys’ problems and left out less visible girls’ problems. According to Osler et el. (2002) girls are more involved in some of the less formal and less visible forms of exclusions than boys. The introduction of the national curriculum reduced gender differences in subject choice before age 16, however by A level traditional gender differences had come back and these endured into higher education. This was still obvious at the beginning of the twenty-first century. In 2001, 93 % of students sitting the vocational A level in Health and Social Care were girls, although in computing 79% applicant were male (Independent, 16 September 2001) Male domination of education has continued in other ways. As academics they went further with their careers in higher education and as the result this the number of males in these areas is pretty high.
University procedures and decision-making bodies tend to be under controlled by men (Hodges 2000). Higher positions in schools, governing bodies, local education authorities (LEAs) and the Department for Education and Skills have also been male dominated.
In conclusion women’s employment is growing which made girls raise their confidence and expectations. The decline of traditional male jobs steered to the disappointment and cynicism of many boys, who no longer bother with education and take asylum in an oppositional culture. Growing insecurity of employment may have caused same effects on middle-class boys. These theories are related to bigger ideas of a male identity crisis. There has definitely been an increasing worry about boy’s educational performance. The girl’s educational success should not, nevertheless be taken to mean that older gender patterns have disappeared. In subject choice gender still plays a big part which directs boys and girls in the direction of different careers.
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