Outline and assess the view that "males are now the disadvantaged sex in education".
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Outline and assess the view that "males are now the disadvantaged sex in education" In the early 1990s came the first indications that the imbalance between male and female achievement was changing. The evidence for this emerged firstly from the results of the GCSE examination and then from Advanced Level results. These showed that the gap between male and female attainment was widening in the favour of females in arts and humanities subjects, and in the sciences the traditional advantage of males over females was narrowing. Possible interpretations for this are as follows: firstly that boys are simply falling behind, secondly, it could now be that social policy is in fact aiding females and thirdly, that attitudes are beginning to change within the education system and females are beginning to exploit their new found equality. The interpretation that boys are falling behind suggests that it is not just that females are achieving better than before, but that there is a problem with boys and education that has not yet been fully explored by sociologists. The reasons given for this falling behind are varied, but according to Barber (1994) they are connected to males developing much less positive attitudes to education than females. This negative attitude is manifested in a number of ways, including lower work rates among male students and signs of disaffection, such as increased truancy and behaviour problems among male students.
The outside school view of changing attitudes suggests that female attitudes towards education and work have changed significantly. This is partly because more young women have rallied to the feminist call for gender equality and partly because of the employment opportunities available to them. Thus it is claimed that women are now more independent minded and ambitious, and with their higher expectations they are less likely to want to marry and start a family at a young age - education, work and career have become a new focus of gender identity (Sharpe, 1994). Wilkinson (1994) also shows that employment has taken over from starting a family as the main aim of young women, and that this shift in social attitudes is having a strong bearing on educational aspirations and performance. However it is important not to overestimate the degree of change in attitudes. Sharpe (1994) indicates that many of the females in her 1990s study, like those in the 1970s research, anticipated life as a 'dual worker', combining paid employment and domestic responsibilities. Sharpe also acknowledges that the desire to gain educational qualifications may partly reflect females' recognition of the fragility of the labour market in a period of recession. It should also be highlighted that the increased employment opportunities are less impressive than at first sight.
Overall, girls were prepared to work consistently to meet coursework deadlines, whereas boys had difficulty on organising their time. There was a greater readiness among girls to do school work at home and spend more time on homework than boys. When thinking about the future, the young women recognised the need to gain qualifications, for lives, which would involve paid employment as well as domestic responsibilities. Generally, the males has not given much thought to their futures and seemed fairly unconcerned about their poor school performance. The authors relate their findings to the gender 'regimes', which the young people encounter in their homes and communities. Some of the girls, exposed to the image of women as organiser, responsible for home and family and wage earning, displayed similar characteristics themselves, i.e. being highly organised with school work and homework. Harris et al argue that the dominant stereotype of the male in the working class community they examined was highly macho. Typically, this was characterised by a disregard for authority of organisational structures and an enjoyment of the active company of other males. Some boys were already fulfilling such a stereotype in their approach to school, showing little regard for working steadily and dissociating themselves with formal requirements. It is not the case that males are now the disadvantaged sex in education, it is simply the case that females are making better use of their new found equality and exploiting the anti-school subculture adopted by their male counterparts.
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