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Feminist Perspectives On Education.

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Introduction

Gender and Education From the 1960's onwards, feminist sociologists highlighter the following gender inequalities in education. 1. Gendered language - Reflecting the wider society, school textbooks (and teachers) tended to use gendered language - 'he', 'him', 'his', 'man' and 'men' when referring to a person or people. This tended to downgrade women and make them invisible. 2. Gendered roles - School textbooks have tended to present males and females in traditional gender roles - for example, women and mothers as housewives. This is particularly evident in reading schemes from the 1960s and 1970's. 3. Gender stereotypes - Reading schemes have also tended to present traditional gender stereotypes. For example, an analysis of six reading schemes from the 1960's and 70 have found that: * Boys are presented as more adventurous than girls * As physically stronger * As having more choices * Girls are presented as more caring than boys * As more interested in domestic matters * As followers rather than leaders (Lobban, 1974) 4. Women in curriculum - In terms of what's taught in schools - the curriculum - women tend to be missing, in the background, or in second place. Feminists often argue that women have been 'hidden from history' - history has been the history of men. 5. Subject choice - Traditionally, female students have tended to avoid maths, science and technology. Certain subjects were seen as 'boys' subjects' and 'girls' subjects'. Often girl's subjects had lower status and lower market value. ...read more.

Middle

It was the deficiency of the working class woman that was seen as the root cause of a host of social problems - alcoholism, crime, infant mortality and the spread of disease. The explanation of disharmony and malfunction in society was explained in relation to the failure of the working class family, and especially the working class wife. One of the chief causes of this failure was working women. By attacking the working woman as an inadequate wife and mother the ideology of domesticity was reaffirmed. Thus the idea of the 'good woman' was a bourgeois attempt to transport the ideology of domesticity into a form that would fit the constraints of working class family life - a form of class cultural control. The two ideals of femininity formed part of the context within which educational institutions were founded and reformed. First, because most of the formal education provided in the 19th century was the result of middle class voluntary effort, and second, because when the state did get involved in educational provision, the policy makers were themselves drawn from the middle class. Within the educational context the bourgeois definition of femininity held a number of contradictions and dilemmas for both working class and middle class women. For middle class women the linking of femininity with domesticity posed a contradiction in that seeking education they were unsexing themselves, particularly if they sought admission to previously exclusively male institutions. As is so frequently found in studying changes in social consciousness, there were underlying economic changes that helped women gain access to higher education. ...read more.

Conclusion

The route into HE for women was that of the extension college, attached to, but not part of, the universities. The danger here was the idea that part-time education would become a substitute for full-time study. Eventually women were admitted onto full-time degree courses although Oxford and Cambridge refused to award them degrees until 1919 and 1947 respectively. And this experience of HE facilitated the passage of women into certain forms of waged labour, and paid work became a legitimate area of activity for middle class women. However, the majority of this new female elite entered an area traditionally linked with women - teaching. Before the 1870 Act, which made full-time elementary education a possibility for girls, a working class girl might experience co-education in a variety of forms such as Dame Schools, Charity schools or religious schools. Working class girls were offered a curriculum that emphasised utilitarian skills, rather than the middle class girls diet of social accomplishments. The standards in such schools were probably quite low. A result of poor schooling was that the literacy rate of women, particularly working class women, was, for most of the 19th century, lower than that for men. Feminist perspectives have been valuable for exposing gender inequality in education. Partly as a result of sociological research, a lot has changed - for example, much of the sexism in reading schemes has now disappeared. Today, women have overtaken men on most measures of educational attainment. Their grades at GCSE and A Level are significantly higher than those of male students. And more women than men are going on to higher education. The concern now is the underachievement of boys rather than discrimination against girls. ...read more.

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