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Does Gender Affect Student’s Performances At Key Stage 5 And Beyond?

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Introduction

Does Gender Affect Student's Performances At Key Stage 5 And Beyond? Introduction Recently it has been argued that the underachievement of boys has been happening for many years (Epston, Elwood ET. Al. 1999), it was simply the fact that female students were prevented from entering schools that enable this to go unnoticed for so long. During the days of the 11 plus it was well documented that boys performed at a lower level than girls. More girls (nationally) obtained the highest marks in these examinations. A direct consequence of this was that girls had to do far better than boys in order to gain a place at grammar school. It was thought, at the time, although boys underachieved (compared to girls) in the 11 plus, their future educational potential was greater (Dillon and Maguire 1997). In today's schools and colleges underachievement of boys (compared with girls of the same age) would seem to be a nationwide. Many schools have adopted specific strategies in an attempt to tackle the problem. National daily newspapers regularly offer publicity to this issue (commonly referred to as the 'gender gap') as does the TES (TES 1999). So why is there this sudden rush to address a problem that appears to have been with us for decades? One reason maybe that due to a decline in low skill manual jobs, which were traditionally male based, there is an increasing need for males to enter higher education in order to gain employment. I will attempt to focus on student's performances at both key stage 5 (institutions such as 6th forms or tertiary colleges) and higher educational institutions. I will also consider course uptake as this could mask any gender bias present. Firstly I will draw a comparison with any gender differences occurring in secondary education. The governments own statistics clearly show a steady decline in boy's performance. In the 1990's boy's achievement across all school success criteria (five or more A* to C grades at GCSE, five or more at grades A* to G or one or more at grades A* to G) ...read more.

Middle

Let us examine some actual results from both male and female pupils. From 1990 to 1997 the gender gap in performance between boys and girls at A-level has been decreasing steadily; in 1990 2.8% more boys than girls gained grades A-C. But by 1997 girls were shown to be 1.2% A-C grades ahead (Elwood 1999). These figures imply that the performance of girls at 16 has begun to filter through to results obtained at 18. Indeed in 1999 18.1% of female candidates were awarded an A grade compared to 17.5% of males (Cassidy 2000). As A-level subjects are optional choices differences in uptake will have a significant bearing on the identification of any gender gap. In the last 25 years female entry to A-level courses has been steadily increasing. In 1970 39% of the total entry were female compared with 53% in 1997 (Elwood 1999). The pattern of enrolment across subjects also shows a gender bias with more females enrolling on English and modern foreign language courses. Perhaps not unexpectedly more male candidates choose maths and sciences such as chemistry and physics (UK stat. 1992-1998). It is not uncommon for pupils to choose along quite stereotypical lines. Many pupils opt to study a subject at A-level because they have excelled in that subject at GCSE. So the higher percentage of females choosing language based subjects should not be that surprising (Pickard 2000). Last year three times as many males compared to females sat computing and physics A-levels and females outnumbered male by the same proportion in psychology, sociology and religious studies (Cassidy 2000). These biased entry patterns reflect student's personal choices and the issue is currently under close scrutiny. During the last five years large amounts of publicity have been used to in an attempt to persuade more girls into science, engineering and technology subjects. Glossy pamphlets and posters aimed towards girls adorn most secondary school science labs. ...read more.

Conclusion

But, perhaps through lack of confidence, their performance shows slow deterioration over the length of the course. The personality factor is summed up by Wiseman 1973 "success in the educational obstacle race may well have far less to do with intellectual ability than the type of person the competitor is". Conclusion Gender and performance at A-level is a complex issue and certainly does not depend on just one single cause. In recent years the gender gap between boys and girls has been decreasing with girls outperforming boys for the first time. Reason proposed in explanation of this phenomena include the modular system, ambition and career options for females and decreased job optimism for males. These statistics should not be taken at face value. The ratio of male to female in enrolment has been shown to alter the outcome. Therefore, at A-level, where students exercise a great deal of choice, entry gaps tend to be larger, whilst the attainment gaps tend to be smaller than at GCSE (ACCAC 2000). Several suggestions have been made by Elwood (1999) to counter any gender bias. Firstly, to overcome traditional patterns of entry it is suggested that A-level options should be more focused along with policies giving prospective students advice. Through timetable restraints it is suggested that there is no real choice and this simply reinforces traditional subject patterns. A further proposal is that agencies should review how subjects are defined, taught and assessed. It can be argued that changing the image of a subject would alter its proposed level of difficulty, and as seen above attitude is all-important. The link between a subject and the world outside of education could also emphasised perhaps giving students a clearer idea of why education is worthwhile. Assessment strategies could also be examined perhaps giving empowering students and enabling them to play to their strengths in a particular subject. The GCE A-level has possibly the greatest social consequences of any qualification taken within the UK. More research is needed to ensure all students (both male and female) perform to the best of their ability on a level playing field. ...read more.

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