What is the Gender Gap in Education?

The 2019 GCSE results show a 7% achievement gap between girls and boys in all subjects. There are variations by subject…. in English girls outperformed boys by 15%, but in maths boys outperform girls by 0.5%

What is The Gender Gap?

The gender gap in education refers to the fact that girls get better GCSE and A level results than boys, in practically every subject, and women are much more likely to go to university than men. For more specific statistics on the relationship between gender and educational achievement, please read on (sources below).

The 2019 GCSE results by gender 

The 2019 GCSE results show a 9.8% gender gap – with 71.7% of females achieving a grade 4/ C or above, compared to only 62.9% of males.

The table below show you the following: (cumulative percentages)

Subject |Sex | No. sat |7/A |4/C |1/G

The gap is slightly narrower for high grades for all subjects, as shown by this Guardian infographic.

The gender gap is only 6.5% for high grades in all subjects.

The GCSE gender gap varies by subject

Subject |Sex | No. sat |7/A |4/C |1/G

The gender gap does vary considerably by subject. As you can see from the statistics above:

  • For English girls do much better than boys – they outperform boys by around 16% for ‘good grades’
  • For maths the gender gap is 0.5% in favour of boys!

A-Level Results by Gender

At A-level, there is only a 3.9% point gap in the A*-C achievement rate between girls and boys.

HOWEVER, boys are much less likely to do A-levels than girls:

  • 440 379 A-level entries were female in 2019.
  • 360 623 A level entries were male in 2019.

This is because males are more likely to do vocational qualifications or apprenticeships at 16-19 compared to girls.

Further research…

Interestingly, research from the Cambridge Assessment Research Report showed that the ‘gender gap was generally smaller in STEM and Language subjects (around 5 percentage points at grade C) and greater in Applied, Expressive and Humanities subjects (around 14 percentage points at grade C)’.

There was a 9% point ‘gender gap at GCSE in 2015

Sources

Explaining Gender Inequality in Education – In School Factors

Why do girls do better than boys in schools in Britain? This post aims to explain the gender gap in education by focusing on internal factors such as teacher labeling, laddish subcultures and the feminisation of teaching.

Why do girls do better than boys in schools in Britain? This post aims to explain the gender gap in education by focusing on internal factors such as teacher labeling, laddish subcultures and the feminisation of teaching. 

Teacher Labelling

Swann and Graddol (1994) found that teachers tend to see boys as unruly and disruptive and are more likely to spend time telling them off than helping them with schoolwork. Teachers have lower expectations of boys and so are less inclined to push them hard to achieve high standards. Because of their disruptive behaviour they are more likely to be excluded. Four out of five permanent exclusions are boys. With Ladette culture this may be changing (Jackson, 2006)

John Abraham (1986) asked teachers to describe a typical boy and a typical girl – The typical boy was described as not particularly bright, likes a laugh and always attention seeking, often by messing around. The typical girl is bright, well –behaved and hard working, being quiet and timid. As a result he found that boys were told off much more easily than girls.

Subcultures and ‘Laddishness’

Working class boys especially tend to form anti-school subcultures. Paul Willis (1977) found this with his research with the lads, Tony Sewell (1997) argues that there is a black –anti school masculinity and Diane Reay et al (2003) found that boys felt they had little control over their educational learning and so seek power through other negative strategies.

Unlike the anti-social subculture discovered by Paul Willis, some researchers such as Abrahams (1988) and Mirza (1992) have found evidence of pro-school female subcultures who actively encourage each other to study.

Carolyn Jackson (2006) – Found that laddish behaviour had important benefits – it made students seam cool and thus popular. She also argued that it was a response to the fear of failure – it made students seam unbothered about failing, so if they did FAIL they would not look bad. Furthermore, if lads and ladettes did well, they would be labelled as a genius – doing well with apparently no effort

Frosh and Phoenix – Mainly focus group interviews but some individual interviews Sample of 245 boys and 27girls in 12 schools Young Masculinities (2000) Found that few boys were able to be both popular and academically successful Conscientious boys who tried hard at school were often labelled as feminine or gay.

The Feminisation of teaching

There are more female than male teachers, especially in primary school. In line with women increasingly going into more professional careers, secondary schooling has also seen a rise in female teachers. This means that girls increasingly have positive role models while boys may fail to identify with female teachers. Some sociologists have suggested that one possible explanation for these gender differences in attainment is the ‘feminisation of education’. This is the idea that there are not enough male teachers working in primary schools and that, as a result, the curriculum, teaching styles and means of assessment, are more appropriate to the learning styles of girls. Consequently government strategies of teacher recruitment now suggest that pupils will benefit from ‘gender-matching’ with teachers.

The introduction of coursework

Coursework was introduced with the 1988 Education Act and this is precisely when girls started to outperform boys in education. Coursework may benefit girls in education because they are better organised and more likely to do work outside of lessons.

Boys’ overconfidence

Michael Barber (1996) showed that boys overestimate their ability, and girls underestimate theirs. Francis research in 3 London schools (1998-9) found that some boys thought it would be easy to do well in exams without having to put much effort in. When they fail they tend to blame the teacher or their own lack of effort, not ability and feel undervalued.

Limitations of in school factors in explaining differences in educational achievement

The introduction of coursework in 1988 seams to have had a major impact on girl’s surging ahead of boys because girls suddenly surged ahead at this time

Research by Skelton et al found that the Feminisation of teaching does not have a negative impact on educational performance of boys. They found that most pupils and teachers reported that matching pupils and teachers by gender did not significantly affect pupils’ educational experiences. Sixty-five per cent of children rejected the idea that the gender of the teacher mattered, with no major differences between girls and boys. The majority of pupils also believed that the behaviour of male and female teachers in the classroom was generally very similar in terms of fairness, encouragement and discipline.

Out of school factors must also play a role – boys learn to be ‘typical boys’ at home first of all and then their peers just reinforce this.

Don’t exaggerate the extent of male underachievement – boys are still improving in education and are now catching up with girls once more.