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Outline three reasons why girls are less likely to choose science subjects than boys (6 marks) 

This is a possible 6 mark question for the AQA’s 7192/1 Education and Theory with Methods Paper

The technique to answering such a question is to think of it in terms of 3 lots of 1 + 1 – you need 3 identifiers and then three developments

Possible identifiers

  • Teacher’s sexist ideas channeling girls into ‘girls subjects’
  • Science taught in a male way using male examples (engines), put girls off
  • Biological differences. Girls better at communication, not much discussion in science subjects
  • Differential parental encouragement
  • Boys more likely to play with technical toys
  • Fewer girls in text books
  • Fewer female science teachers
  • Boys dominate classroom by dominating practical equipment

Three identifiers plus three explanations/ developments…

  • (ID) Teachers may have stereotypical ideas that girls would struggle in male dominated subjects such as physics, (EX) and they may try and put them off, steering them towards other, more traditionally feminine subjects such as English, meaning fewer girls end up doing science subjects. 
  • (ID) Science subjects are often taught using masculine examples – for example, physics text books might use cars to illustrate the laws of motion. (EX) This might put girls off doing physics because they have no interest in the masculine examples used to teach these subjects. 
  • (ID) Girls are more likely to be socialised into discussing their feelings, (EX) and thus they might be more likely to choose subjects such as history and English where you need to discuss things more, rather than sciences where there is less discussion and ‘one right answer’. 

For more examples of exam practice questions, please see links on my ‘exams page‘!

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Analyse two reasons why women remain economically disadvantaged compared to men despite the increase in the gender gap in educational achievement (10)

Using material from item A and elsewhere, analyse two reasons why women remain economically disadvantaged compared to men despite the increase in the gender gap in educational achievement (10)

Item A

Girls have been outperforming boys in education for 30 years now. However, despite this, men still earn more than women.

There are many explanations for this: the most obvious being that schools fail to adequately tackle other aspects of gender inequality: such as gender differences in socialisation, social roles and gendered differences in subject choice.

Suggested Answer

gender gap education work

One reason is that despite getting better qualifications than men, women are more likely to work part-time than men.

This is because despite changes to education in the world of work women are still more likely to be the primary child carers, and thus take time off work, putting their careers on hold in order to bring up children.

According to Radical Feminists this shows that schools fail to tackle in-grained gendered socialisation learnt at home and via the media…. girls may increasingly be going into careers, but by the time they get to 35 and have their first baby it is generally women who take time off work, not men.

This might be because schools only focus on the formal aspects of qualifications (i.e. exam skills, grades) and fail to challenge gender-stereotypes about appropriate future work roles for men and women.

This could also be linked marketization – the curriculum narrows to focus on teaching to the test rather than focussing on broader educational issues such as promoting gender equality and diversity.

A second reason may be that girls are more likely to choose caring subjects which are linked to lower paid careers such as health and social care which leads into nursing.

In contrast boys choose more technical subjects which are linked to more highly paid careers, such as maths and computer programming leading onto engineering and computer programming.

According to labelling theory, this happens because of gendered stereotypes held by careers advisors, with subject advisors steering girls and boys into ‘traditional subject choices’.

This criticises the Liberal Feminist view that mere ‘equality of opportunity’ is sufficient to being about wage equality, and supports the Radical Feminist view that patriarchy (in the form of stereotypical assumptions) still works within schools to disadvantage girls.

However, all of this is changing and that a higher proportion of girls are choosing to do traditionally male subjects and are going into male jobs in greater numbers and that things are actually becoming more equal. Supporting evidence for this lies in the fact that women in their 20s actually earn more than men in their 20s.

 

 

Women do lower payed jobs than men.

Gender gap

Educational achievement

Also subject choice

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Gender and Subject Choice 2017

Looking at the A level exam entries by gender in 2017 over 90% of people who sat computing were male, compared to only 23% of people who sat sociology A level.

A Level Subjects Gender 2017

 

Either click on the above graphic or check out the interactive version here (irritatingly I can’t embed dynamic visuals in a wordpress.com blog, yet!) 

These are only selected A-levels, to make the amount of information more manageable…. I didn’t deliberately select it so sociology was the most feminine, but it’s certainly ‘up there’ as one of the most female dominated subjects… must be all that empathizing us sociologists do?!

Talking about empathy, or lack of it, I have to say absolutely no thanks whatsoever to the Joint Qualifications Alliance who did not even respond to my email request for a spread sheet of this A-level data.

The JCQ only make this public data available in the form of a PDF which makes it less accessible for data manipulation – I had to enter this info by hand, which was massively inefficient use of my time.

This post is primarily me testing out the capabilities of Tableau (Free data viz software)…. More on subject choice at different levels of education later, as well as analysis of WHY males and females choose different subjects…..

Source:

Joint Council for Qualifications and Enemies of Open Data. 

 

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Analyse two reasons for gender differences in subject choice (10)

The trick here is to pick two broad (rather than very specific) reasons, which will give you the most scope to develop

 The first reason is gendered differences in early socialisation

Fiona Norman (1988) found that most parents socialise boys and girls in different ways – they tend to be more gentle with girls, protect them more, and encourage them in more passive activities, such as reading with them, whereas ‘typical boys’ are encouraged to run around and ‘let of steam’ more.

Later on in school, this might explain why more boys do active subjects such as P.E. and why more girls do reflective, academic subjects such as English and sociology.

A further gender difference in socialisation is the toys boys and girls play with – dolls for girls and cars and tool sets for boys, which could explain differences in vocational subjects – health and social care subjects (working with children) are very female dominated, engineering (making and fixing) are very much male dominated.

However, Postmodernists would say that these stereotypes are breaking down, and that gender stereotypes in socialisation are much less common than in the past, hence why we are seeing more gender diversity in subject choice today.

Peer group pressure might also encourage boys to do ‘typically boys subjects’ and girls to do typically girls subjects.

This linked to hegemonic (dominant ideas about) masculinity – stereotypically, ‘real men’ are good at sport, and so boys are under pressure play sport to fit into their male peer group, this doesn’t apply to girls and could explain why more boys do PE later in their school careers.

Similarly hegemonic femininity also requires that girls ‘look good’ (as Louise Archer found) which could explain why it is mostly girls who do hair and beauty courses.

Verbal abuse is one way these peer groups reinforce dominant gender identities. Boys choosing girls’ subjects can be accused of being ‘gay’, and vice versa for girls, and this may steer them away from subjects which don’t fit in with their gender domains.

To analyse this even further all of this is especially true of working class girls and boys, and for younger children, less so for middle class and older children (doing A level for example).