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Gender and School Subject Choice in the UK Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Jul 23rd, 2020

Introduction: The Notion of Gender-Driven Educational Choices

The domain of contemporary education is marked with a vivid gender gap, which is reflected both in school access and subject preferences. In this work, the discrepancies in secondary subject choices, in the UK, are analyzed. Specifically, the causing factors, which evoke gender-driven preferences in learning areas, are discussed as well as the major labor market implications are reflected. Finally, the investigation studies the ways of social justice adjustment and correlation between gender and education.

Sex segregation in the sphere of school learning is based on the traditional division of educational subjects, according to which, sciences such as mathematics, information technology, and physics are characteristic for boys. In contrast to it, humanities are female-directed. Due to the psychologists, the tendency stems from mental and biological factors. Thus, men are mostly rational and objective in their judgments while women reveal creativity and emotional thinking (Francis 36).

The information and data comparison on gender inequality in the British secondary education is derived from two major sources: subject selection and the results of GCSE and GCE examinations. The results of the cross-national assessment are presented annually at the Joint Council for Qualifications. Thus, the outcomes of the latest evaluation revealed that, in 2015, the infrastructure of British secondary education reflects the following tendencies:

  1. the revelation of gender gaps, which focus on ten academic subjects, became smaller in comparison to the previous year;
  2. the subjects as science, English, and mathematics demonstrate no sex segregation;
  3. relatively low gender gaps exist in relation to such subject entries as history, geography, and religious studies;
  4. the greatest sex segregation is revealed in art and design entry (“Gender and Subject Choice: Data and Explanations” par. 3).

Despite certain slackening of gender-focused tendencies in the last years, the crisis may still be traced in the UK secondary schools.

Gender Bias as a Crisis of British Schools

The background of sex segmentation stems from various grounds. The educators and policy-makers often claim that the tendencies of gender biases vary, according to the type of school, which develops a certain attitude to subject selection. Thus, due to the National Pupil Database, approximately 50 % of state-funded British schools, as well as educational establishments in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are likely to reinforce complex stereotyping of sex discrepancies.

In contrast to it, single-sex schools and private schools do not prioritize gender segmentation. The conclusion on sex-driven subject selection is deduced on the basis of the overview of A-level students’ records. Thus, the experts state that the schools, which educate boys, represent a variety of academic subjects’ preferences. Moreover, several private schools, which were assessed in the matter of subject divisions, report the supremacy of humanities choice among males.

The discrepancy is motivated by the fact that private and single-sex establishments employ a variety of psychologists and professional orientation supervisors, who instruct the learners on the vitality of specialization choice. In the opposite, state schools in the UK promote gender gaps by leaving the students alone with their preferences. Therefore, it is a challenge for the UK school administrators to take a direction on fighting social prejudices, which affect subject selections in secondary schools since a powerful creation of biased notions of male and female disciplines overshadows the creativeness and professional skills of certain individuals.

The Clarification of Gender-Biased Educational Choices in the UK

Biological Factors

A complex investigation of the factors, which inflict gender-driven segregation in the secondary education, in the UK, has been conducted by multiple scientists and educators. The assessments of discipline variations intersect in several points, which are named as the most common explanations for educational choices of the British learners. Thus, the primary reason is the relevance of a biological aspect.

According to the biological theory of subject selection, it is suggested that the preferences of males and females rely on their innate cognitive abilities and genetic features. In the context of this suggestion, it is argued that an inclination to exact sciences or humanities is predetermined by the inherited X-chromosomes. According to a different theory, a selection of disciplines in secondary schools stems from the differences in brain hemispheres. Specifically, the experts acknowledge that female brain is more symmetrical than the brain of males. The biological discrepancy stimulates the attachment of women to subjective judgments and rationality of males.

Finally, the development of cognitive abilities depends on hormonal segregation, which promotes division of biological mechanisms. Thus, according to the early hormonal development of girls, they develop superior language-related and verbal skills at the early stages of their intellectual development. In contrast to it, boys, who enter the stage of maturity later than girls, develop well-elaborated spatial skills, which stimulate rationality. The mentioned tendencies exist. However, the doctors claim that the theories may be rebutted, for the application of the principles can not be absolute. Mainly, the biological theory relates multiple examples of excellent language-related skills in males, which contradicts the initial factor (Elwood 46).

Social Factors

Since the influence of biological indicators on subject choices in the UK learners is quite subjective and inconsistent, the employment of social justifications for the tendency is suggested. Thus, it is often claimed that males and females have contrastive socialization experiences, which imposes certain implications on discipline selection. The psychologists say that boys and girls are assigned certain behavioral patterns from the early stages of their emotional and intellectual development. According to this assumption, it may be claimed that males and females tend to enter gender-specific areas of thinking. The differential indicators evolve in the forms of certain behavioral categories. Mainly, the aspects, which emphasize divergences in subject choices, include differences in experiences, relevance discrepancies, diverse expectations, contrastive attitudes to academic learning, and various communication faculties.

Differences in experiencing

By the time of entering secondary schools in the UK, both females and males possess some stable socialization experiences, which had previously shaped in family environments. Thus, boys and girls develop some ideas about the functioning of a man and a woman in a society, which stems from the social positioning of father and mother. Therefore, males experience the types of interaction, which positions them as strong and rational individuals. In contrast to them, women are viewed as emotional creatures. For instance, from the very childhood, boys are taught to play with such toys like cars and work appliances, which reveal that society perceives them as potential technicians, manual laborers, and businessmen. In the opposite, girls are assigned creative and emphatic professions, which stemmed from the experiences of playing with dolls.

Relevance discrepancies

According to the popular theory of socialization, it is stated that subject choices in secondary schools of the UK depend not on the actual experiences of boys and girls but rather on their attitudes to such experiences. Thus, the psychologists say that females primarily pay attention to certain subjects and actions in their contexts while males are rather focused on the factual experiences, which are detached from any context-related factors. Since girls are inclined to putting emphasis on human concerns, they are likely to contemplate different sides of a task. That is why, females mostly target humanities. In contrast to them, males center their attention on a whole, which results in attachment to exact sciences.

Diverse expectations

The expectations, which are imposed on the secondary school learners by their parents and teachers, link the experiences of pupils to traditions and customs of the British society. In this context, it is believed that boys have no skills and abilities to excel in humanities while girls have low inclinations to do well in mathematics and sciences. Therefore, the individuals are urged to enter the educational programs, which are considered to be appropriate rather than those, which appeal to the learners personally.

Contrastive attitudes to academic learning

The domain of academic learning is proportionally related to the personal motivation and confidence of pupils. Thus, schools reports, which give evidence on learners’ psychological perceiving of school subjects, demonstrate that girls feel more confident if they are studying such disciplines as biology rather than physics. In the opposite, males feel more natural and efficient if they study mathematics or sciences (Elwood 46).

Various communication faculties

The psychologists suggest that literature, primarily fiction, which is read by boys and girls, differs along gender lines. Thus, from their early childhood, girls give preference to the type of fiction, which focuses on human relations and emotions. That is why, it is often claimed that such genres as chick lit and romantic fiction belong to female literature while boys mostly target magazines and fantastic or sci-fi literature, which provides little descriptive elements. Therefore, in the course of study, boys and girls develop their own styles of expression. Since girls normally develop excellent literacy, they are more likely to choose humanities rather than sciences. In contrast to them, boys, who prefer factual expression, are likely to select exact subjects.

The Relation of Gender-Based Learning to Performance

The general school performance is interrelated with the gender-dependent subject choice. In this context, it may be claimed that academic success of the learners dwells on their natural abilities and skills. Thus, it is acknowledged that girls feel less confident in the roles of math learners than boys while boys do not feel natural in the positions of language learners. In the UK, academic performance of the individuals is measured along the structuring of GCSE level examinations. The assessment of annual GCSE reports claims that girls are more likely to succeed than boys, and they usually proceed to study on the level of excellence.

Therefore, the educators, in the UK, are concerned with the controversy of easiness of examinations. Thus, some experts argue that academic excellence in girls may be stimulated by the fact that humanities are easier to study than exact sciences. Therefore, some alterations to the structure of GCSE are regularly made. Specifically, the UK policy on educational performance introduced the accomplishment of specified course works, which have to be completed by the learner prior to passing GCSE examination.

Moreover, the policies constantly stay in contradiction to gender learning by imposing the complexes of compulsory disciplines. For instance, recently, such subjects as English, Math, and Sciences became compulsory choices at the GCSE level (“Gender and Subject Choice: Data and Explanations” par. 12). The stimulation of genderless study contributes to the development of objective academic learning environment.

Educational Aspirations and Social Justice

The Interrelation between Sociology and Subject Choice

Academic preferences, in the UK, are influenced by social connections and traditional patterns of social development of the outer world. The link has logical justifications for the selection of secondary school choices influences farther profession-related preferences, which are later on reflected in the occupational infrastructure of the country.

The platform of social impacts starts in the family, which is the primary model of social interrelations that are faced by a young person. Thus, from the early childhood, a person traces some established principles of occupational functioning, which are demonstrated by his parents. For instance, if parents of a young learner are biologists, they are likely to transfer a significant part of their professional activities to their homes.

Specifically, people often lead discussions, which relate to their jobs or complete a part of work tasks at home. Therefore, a specific type of occupational environment, which is created by a family, imposes certain influences on a learner. In most cases, girls are likely to overtake professions of their mothers while boys follow career paths of fathers. The selection is also motivated by the idea, according to which, a family can assist prospective students in their ways to academic excellence if they possess respective specialized knowledge.

The second social platform of subject choice includes peer impacts. In this context, it is suggested that until the pupils reach GCSE examination, in the UK, they already form some stable, friendly connections with their peers. Therefore, the preferences of classmates and friends often become the consistent grounds for personal choices of individual learners.

The mentioned social effects may intersect in the point of gender since the latter evolves both in the case of family influences and peer groups effects. Thus, family-related subject choices are stimulated by the idea of the previous centuries, according to which, father is positioned as the head of the family institution, who must take up manly professions while women are rather perceived as housewives or representatives of “female-like” occupations such as nursing or teaching. From the perspective of peer impacts, it is acknowledged that teenagers tend to make a division between male and female occupations. Consequently, the individuals, who make an attempt to step out of the established positions, are chased and teased by their peers (Davies et al. 3). That is why, the process of personal socialization plays a critical role in subject choice inclinations.

Unfairness in the System of Educational Choices: Feminism Perspective

It is acknowledged that the system of gender-driven subject selection often contributes to the encouragement of social injustice in the UK education. The primary unfairness perspective is stimulated by feministic movements.

According to the theory of feminism, the world of both secondary and higher education is supervised by patriarchal occupational relations. The idea stems from the ancient values of male education, which prioritizes educational improvement for men. In the previous centuries, the idea was supported by a low academic performance of women. Since girls had a small access to schools, they developed poor literacy and academic skills. Therefore, both the workforce and educational institutions were ruled by men. The situation changed in the 20th century when the mixed type of schooling was introduced for the first time.

From this moment, females launched an active improvement of their academic performance. Nevertheless, the feminists state that gender-divided subject choice still values the idea of patriarchy. Thus, one may conclude that certain disciplines are directed to specific gender groups of secondary school learners. For instance, the subject of cooking is focused primarily on educating girls, which supports the traditional idea of a woman as a housewife. Conclusively, the females, who have traditionally been taught to remain family-oriented, received the same treatment from the dimension of education even after male schooling was converted into new mixed learning.

In the second part of the 20th century, the structure of education changed, which evolved in the form of introducing GCSE level examinations. The improvements revealed that girls had abilities, which could help them to show higher academic performance than males. The particular advance of a female role in the education was embodied in the last decades of the 20th century. By this time, the movement of feminism reached its highest fluorescence, which was highly popularized through media sources. Television prioritized career ambitions of women over household relations, which gained its form in multiple films and TV shows.

In the 1980s, one of the most famous films about female achievements in education was shot. The movie under the name “Education Rita” demonstrated that British women have lost much in academic development, due to constant restrictions of girls’ rights. However, it revealed that there are ways, in which women can successfully convert to career development and gain excellent academic proficiency through persistence and hard work (“Gender and Educational Attainment” par. 7).

The Construction of Social Justice Platform in the UK Education

Gender-biased education, which supports sex segregation in the secondary education of the UK, hinders the quality of academic learning and distracts personal aspirations of prospective specialists. The psychologists claim that professional skills and capabilities do not depend on biological and social characteristics. Thus, some boys can reveal perfect excellence in language-related disciplines while specific girls have opportunities to become stunning mathematicians. Therefore, it is critical developing a system of education, which has to be correlated with social justice principles. The concern has to be addressed on several levels. First, it should regard appropriate family socialization. Second, it implies a creation of segregation-free classrooms. Finally, it includes personal motivation of learners.

Realization of Social Justice in a Family

The formation of a non-biased environment within a school, which helps the learners to realize their potentials, is sustained not at school but rather at home. A family represents the initial institution of socialization for every young person. That is why, it is critical for the government to develop the policies on socio-cultural development within families. The country must value the tradition of early professional improvement, which targets individualism and the recognition of personal identities in learners. The objective may be realized in training and workshops, which are traditional for many potential parents.

Furthermore, the idea must be introduced in the UK literature on parenting. The actual scientific doctrines have to chase the aim of developing the notion of gender equality and social justice at school. It is also critical to elaborate medical investigations on the adverse effects of gender segregation at schools so that potential parents had full access to the importance of sex biases.

Gender Equality in a Classroom

Being a teacher “for social justice” equals having an open mind to discarding any prejudices, which might hinder the personal development of an individual within a school. The task of creating the atmosphere of social justice in class is an undertaking challenge since the foundation of bias-free attitudes has to be constructed in the primary school and gradually transmitted into secondary school. The best consideration for inspiring social justice in class concerns personality of an educator and stems from the idea that an excellent teacher has to act out of the desire to make the experiences of his students positive and beneficial.

The starting point of creating social justice classrooms is making an insight into the personal lives of learners. Thus, it is critical for a professional teacher to consider visiting a pupil at home, talking to his parents, and making some conclusions about previous experiences of a young person. If an educator suspects any gender-biased attitudes at home, he should instruct the parents of a learner on the dangers of sex segregation at school and ask them to change their treatment of a learner. If family examples are positive, a teacher might use the gained information in a class by relating to parents’ experiences while working with a child since family relations are motivating for any learner. Secondly, it is significant to link school practices to the real-life tasks and positive examples.

In this context, a teacher may undertake the best stories of famous individuals, who succeeded as the specialists in gender-opposite professions (for example, Karl Lagerfeld as a gifted designer). In this light, it is important to show the learners that skills and innate abilities are not dependent on biological sex, and everyone should take up one’s own mission despite segregation coloring. Finally, the last step on the way to social justice embraces making up the assignments, which could verify professional inclinations of the young learners and using authentic assessment to grade them.

In this respect, an educator completes the most rewarding task since he eliminates gender prejudices by making the assignments equal for both girls and boys so that to disclose the real potentials of the young learners. Moreover, it is vital to give the objective estimation to the pupils since early encouragement and rewards motivate the learners to follow their professional careers despite gender characteristics (Hart 124).

Personal Motivation

The creation of positive classroom community and positive attitudes in class belong to the final missions of an educator. It means that every teacher has to make a consistent attempt to realize personal potentials of the learners as individuals. Therefore, it is important for the teacher to work not only with a group but with the individuals as well. From a different perspective, an educator must combine individual work with an academic group as a whole. In this context, it is beneficial to encourage the relations of academic siblings in class, for it identifies mutual support and understanding between the classmates, which prevents any adverse peer impacts. Conclusively, the realization of social justice in the learners embraces multilevel work of an educator.

Works Cited

Davies, Peter, Shqiponja Telhaj, David Hutton, Nick Adnett, and Robert Coe. “Social Background, Gender, and Subject Choice in Secondary Schooling.” Economic & Social Research Study 12.3 (2004): 1-32. Print.

Elwood, Janet. “Gender and Performance in the GCE A-Level Examination: Gender-Equity and the Gold Standard.” University of London 11.1 (2000): 1-37. Print.

Francis, Becky. “The Gendered Subject: Students’ Subject Preferences and Discussions of Gender and Subject Ability.” Oxford Review of Education 26.1 (2000): 35-48. Print.

. 2015. Web.

Gender and Subject Choice: Data and Explanations 2015. Web.

Hart, Caroline. Aspirations, Education, and Social Justice, Australia, Sidney: A & C Black, 2012. Print.

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