Outline and assess the view that processes within schools may lead to gender differences in educational achievement.
Jusna Begum – FE02
Essay: Outline and assess the view that processes within schools may lead to gender differences in educational achievement.
It could be said that to some extent the view that processes within schools may lead to gender differences in educational achievement is true. The theory of Interactionist looks at the individual rather than society; therefore it is a bottom up theory. Interactionist argue that the processes within the schools such as the hidden curriculum may lead students in gender differences in educational achievement, as what happens inside the school which is unwritten is what influences the individual in educational achievement, not the formal curriculum or what is written rule such as the subjects which is being studied influences the student to achieve. The sociologist Goffman explains that everyone in society is “presenting the self in everyday life”. What he means is that everyone is a puppet of society and not in control of what they say or do, but in fact they are attached in strings and act for example in play, such as a female may play the role of a mother at home but play the role of a student at school. Some argue that the structure and settings of schools, generally creates gender differences in educational achievement, for example the socialisation aspect is that the students are socialised into tolerable forms of behaviour ‘pupils are given drill in how to move about the school, sit in desk, raise hands...the puritan of hard work, sober living and good manners is continuously urged upon them.’ This socialisation naturally created gender differences as males are seen or expected to behave in classrooms in the manner of ‘masculine’ while females are seen or expected to behave in ‘feminine’ behaviour or otherwise it could be considered odd, and therefore the students who do behave odd are looked at differently or called ‘deviant’.
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The sociologist Postman and Weingartner, studied that the hidden curriculum consisted of discovering that; knowledge is beyond the power of students and is in case none of their business; secondly recall is the highest form of intellectual achievement and therefore the collection of ‘facts’ is the goal of education; the voice of authority is to be trusted more than independent judgement; feelings are irrelevant in education; passive acceptance is a more desirable response to ideas than active criticism. This study proves that the individual does not play in an important role but rather how to ‘survive’ the school and just pass the exams was important and therefore not keen on which gender is learning or how but on how they should just ‘pass the time’ in school and move on as education is not about the self but on facts and memorising, and not understanding. As a result it could be said that the study of classroom interaction is the idea that the ‘reality’ of the classroom is a negotiated reality. For students and teachers, the hidden curriculum consists of learning how to survive in the classroom.
It could be argued that time (how long the lesson is) and space (how big/small the classroom) is an important factor which shapes an individuals educational achievement. The sociologist Meighan (1986) explains that space includes the space available for teaching as it suggests the possibilities and opportunities for teaching; it places constraints on what can be done. Space usage implies ideas that are often taken for granted. This means that students ideas on how they think could depend on what environment they are placed in and how much space they have, for example if the classroom is very small where students are cramped in then, they may feel mentally ‘not able to breath’ and in turn this may affect the way they think as suffocation may make not want to express their view or opinions, as it is not the environment which seems right. It could also be said that the message of the furniture in a school is ‘sit and listen’. Therefore this may mean that the student’s behaviour is influenced by the architecture of the classroom. In effect the architectural arrangements could foster different type of teachings and learning, leading to differential gender achievement, for example the ‘feel’ of the classroom could be gendered making one gender feel more dominant and the other weak. Another factor which could contribute to gender differences in education achievement is time table. This has implications for both students and teachers. A timetable carries hidden messages about the importance and worth of different subjects and groups of students. For example in a classroom where there’s twenty students, with seventeen boys and three girls then this will have an effect on their educational achievement, as the girls may feel they have ‘no voice’ and cannot speak and express themselves as there could be fear of intimidation or being laughed at as ‘they are girls’, the stereotype that girls are not clever, vice versa. Also the subject stereotype could be found in the timetables. This goes back to the traditional idea that girls should be doing subjects such as textiles or food technology, as it is seen as easy and feminine, while boys should be doing subjects such as Physics or PE, as it’s more masculine and seen as hard subjects which requires more intellectual thoughts or strength.
The Sociologist Rosenthal and Jacobson studied the concept of ‘self fulfilling prophecy’. From this study they concluded that teachers had somehow communicated positive labels to these students through the quality of their interaction and that the students had responded accordingly. To argue, this study shows teachers expectations matters as, students take on board their views or labels, and try to live up to it. This could either be on students attitudes or how they should be behaving according to the gender, or on the teacher might make comment on how the student is progressing according to the ‘right’ gender and maintain it, for example a female student might be given the label she is a women and therefore she should behave in the manner of a women and not masculine which is not the right appropriate manner.
The attachments of labels can be good or bad. This attached label has consequences, as it affects how a person see’s themselves and how others see themselves. In educational performance it could affect a students achievement, as if it is good label then a student is likely to succeed but a negative label could put them down. One bad aspect of labelling is that it is mostly associated with gender, as most people are labelled according to it. For example, the ethnic group of black Caribbean boys are labelled as troublesome and not keen in education, therefore this could affect them in how they perform in exams, as this stigma is attached to them, and therefore it is hard to remove this over a quick period of time. To illustrate, say for example a Black Caribbean boy was to come into a new environment where people knew or thought of them in this stereotypical way, then instantly he would be seen this way, and therefore he could be treated or not given much attention in class, as teachers expect him not to be interested in the classroom or his work. However, the label of a Chinese student is vice versa, as the stereotype is that they are clever and perform well in exams and generally more interested in what they learn.
The sociologist, Basil Bernstein, found that students from a working class background used more restricted codes, but however students from middle class background used more elaborated codes within the school when talking to peers, and therefore it is the language of education, so to conclude the education system favours the middle class as the structure of language is set up in a way that supports the elaborated codes, and therefore middle class students do better and achieve(formal curriculum, as it’s the middle class knowledge). Paul Willis who was a functionalist, and focused on ‘lads’ and the anti school culture. He found that within the school, the boys aim was to ‘have a laff’ and ignore the rules and reject the learning culture. This could be due to maintaining the masculinity. He also found that while at work, these boys had the same attitude and said that real masculine work did not require education. To conclude, Willis is arguing that it is not the processes within the school which makes an impact on student’s achievement but rather on the student’s attitudes.
Another factor which could be used to argue that processes within the school created gendered educational achievement is language and textbooks. What this means is that the use of language of students or maybe teachers is anti-female, for example comments such as girls should be naturally caring and do subjects related to their gender are common, while in textbooks it is found that it is anti female, as books often refer a person to ‘man/men’ and is often anti black.
However, it could be said that in recent years, there has been changes in attitudes to or expectation of people and this is not gendered to males or females, and people do not associate females with the stereotypes of feminine or boys with the stereotype of masculine. In turn it could be said that students are not seen as attaining or achieving in education due to their ability but rather on their on merits and performance.