The relationship between gender and education is an issue that has been researched and discussed by many scholars. It is a reality that gender disparity exists within the educational system. Research has shown that women have been imparted with the ideologies and customs that male students are better than them through socialization. The focus of this essay is to review the work of various scholars who have analysed the emerging implications of mixed sex education and its impact on academic output in school. The research conducted in this field is wide and varied, thus this literature review will be able to detail the opinions of various scholars on the matter. Thus, it becomes important to consider their work in analysing the issues of mixed gender that arise within schools.
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Overview of the concepts of gender in education
Women have suffered more through gender inequality. Positions and roles of authority have traditionally been held by men. In effect, this ensured that women were not guaranteed such positions. During the 1950s and 1960s, there was increasing emphasis on educational systems to encourage economic growth. Francis and Skelton (2010) have detailed the various policies put in place that were detrimental to the development of boys and girls in school. Their research has shown that educational policies developed for schools were biased and only considered the working-class boy. Boys were considered as the identity of a working class individual. Girls were ignored, and were not considered on important decisions that result in developments. Women were expected to play the traditional role of wife. Thus, they are not expected to advance academically or through their careers (Francis & Skelton, 2001). Thus, this translated into more problems within school.
Francis and Skelton suggest (2001) encouraged various initiatives to be established in society to empower women and young girls. These strategies have been vital in improving women’s lives. Moreover, more opportunities in education were created which acted as a way in which women could show that they are up to the tasks traditionally considered a preserve for men. Even though women are faced by various challenges as a result of the inequalities, males also affected. Francis and Skelton detail that gender has evolved into a system whereby unjust and inequitable power relations are the norm of the day. This is the basis on which boys have identified themselves as superior to girls. As a result, boys are not working hard as they are supposed to. This results from the acceptance that they are superior to girls, thus when placed in a competitive context with a girl they assume that they will be successful (Francis & Skelton, 2001).
Topic of interest and its relevance
The issue of interest that arises is the negative consequences of mixed sex in education. While empowerment of women has increased over the years, boys have begun to suffer. The effects are usually felt in educational institutions with mixed sex. Due to chauvinism, boys have been socialized to believe that they are better than women. This discourages educational success as many of them will not be competitive or work hard. In a school with students from both genders, teachers socialize their students differently. Male teachers tend to advance the idea of masculinity while female teachers encourage feminity. Thus, students become aware of their gender roles that affect their education. The beliefs created can be seen as principles of social justice. Thus, they detail how members of different genders can interact with each other. In a school, students with be characterized with different behaviors. In many cases, most of them behave the way they do because of social influences while in school. Thus, mixed sex in education has developed into an important issue researched by many scholars.
Selection of further readings
Further readings can be obtained from scholarly books dealing with issues of mixed sex in education. Thus, “Gender and Education : An Encyclopedia” by Bank, Delamont, & Marshall (2007) would be an important reading that provides further details on the impact of mixed sex education. This is done by comparing both single and mixed sex schools in education. The book also considers more aspects in education like policies so as to determine the root causes of problems arising fom gender identitties.
Exploration of the theme or topic of interest
The principles of social justice can be seen from how authors like Keddie and Mills (2007) use teachers to illustrate the effects of mixed sex in education. In this case, Keddie and Mills use Rachel, a teacher at a high school, to inform their research. Rachel’s understanding on gender arises from her experiences in school. She attributes gender differences to boys who consider successful masculinity as characterized by control and power. Thus, Rachel relates males’ beliefs on what is expected of them as the reason behind anti-school characteristics and poor performance in school (Keddie & Mills, 2007). Keddie and Mills also explain Rachel’s personal experiences have shaped her own opinions about gender. She is the mother to a son, thus her experiences have influenced her to ensure that her son is not impacted by existing gender beliefs. She considers gender as a factor that restricts a person from achievement. Gender is a construction that arose socially and not a basis principle to be applied within society (Keddie & Mills, 2007). This means people only learn about their gender. Without this knowledge, then the society would not be affected by the various problems arising from gender.
This is broadly related to the problems affecting the larger society. Thus, Skelton, Francis and Smulyan (2006) emphasize that cases of domestic violence and suicide among males can be blamed on the beliefs they attained during their younger years. It is a societal expectation that boys, while in natural setting, exhibit energetic and disorderly behaviors. Boys are also considered to have better academic abilities. When it comes to educational system, less consideration will be placed on them as their capabilities are already known to the society. Skelton, Francis and Smulyan consider this behavior as rational. Thus, boys are viewed as superior than girls when in an academic institution. The boys who comprise the student population will all follow this belief system. In reality, many of them may have academic abilities that are less developed in comparison to girls. Thus, some will not be able to be successful in their studies yet such a group is overlooked when coming up with the greater societal expectations (Skelton, Francis, & Smulyan, 2006).
These expectations easily affect the methods used in teaching classrooms. According to Dillabough, McLeod and Mills (2009), teachers will reason that they do not need a detailed explanation on a particular concept when dealing with boys in comparison to girls. This easily affects a student’s academic abilities due to the assumptions created. Moreover, if a boy is presented as disciplined and polite, then his peers and teachers will not fully understand them. In Australia, the issues affecting boys in regards to academic abilities have been on the increase (Dillabough, McLeod, & Mills, 2009). This has led to establishment of policies to ensure that boys are empowered. The education system has been forced to consider boys as endangered as many of them have developed lack of interest towards academic excellence.
Some studies have taken a different approach when it comes to considering the impact of mixed sex education. Davies has approached the issue by looking at the various factors that result in gender identities. For Davies, gender results from language. This is attributed to the individual’s cultural identities that determine the various languages that are used. It is through language that a person is able to define their gender identities. It is a societal construct that has been constantly been imparted upon growing youth and children. Thus, boys will not be determined to work hard in school in order to establish their beliefs. Success in school in considered a preserve for the females (Davies, 1997). Moreover, Davies uses a two-sex model which has been scientifically established. For Davies, issues in gender result from opposition between two sexes. Each sex has its own identity, thus any deviations are considered aberrations (Davies, 1997).
Synthesis and critique of the theory base
The theory base arises from socialization theories which explain the current cultural turns that can be seen in gender and education theory. Thus feminist approaches have been on the increase in describing issues occurring within the education system. Arnot (2002) has detailed the feminist beliefs through the analysis of feminist politics and considerations on educational theory. A feminist pedagogy is used which considers education as a variable characterized with possibility, resistance and condensation. The formal and informal contexts that influence the reproduction of the sexual division of labor in both socio-economic and cultural levels are considered by Arnot. Thus, questions are raised in order to answer the role of the practices and experiences within an educational context in school. This has led to a split between accounts of societal constructions of learned identity and psychoanalytic explanations of how sex subjectivity is formed at an unconscious level (Arnot, 2002).
According to Cole (2006), boys are seen as having problematic behavior. This results from excessive control by teachers and school structures which facilitate boy’s investment on masculinity that is considered hegemonic. Cole further defines external methods used for social control are also attributed to the behavior witnessed in boys because many schools are characterized by threatening, punishing, and criticizing behavior. These are excessive forms of control in which boys are constantly exposed to. Thus, they are used to such methods of control and its impact is diminished (Cole, 2006).
Research has shown that boys’ behavioral attributes can be changed through the use of democratic means. A level of understanding should be reached so as to have better communication. Thus, restrictive behaviors characterized by boys can be changed through analysis of self and textual contexts. Cole uses a textual analysis that involves simulation of discussions about gender. There are various attributes that arise from gender that can be analyzed. For instance, the learning systems by boys can be looked at as a gender attribute. Australian schools have started to demand for a change in curriculum. Educational experts believe that the best strategy is to create boys only schools to prevent delinquent behavior that arises from beliefs in masculinity (Arnot, 2002).
Social construction is considered an important issue that affects teaching. Dillabough, McLeod and Mills (2009) use the case of Australia where boys are given a higher priority as they are considered endangered. Masculinity has had an influence on the policies developed by the government to guide educational institutions. For instance, the government has developed a framework for guiding gender-equity policies. Boys are considered as disadvantaged according to this policy. Such information can then be used to determine whether public knowledge or best practices are applicable in the education of boys (Dillabough, McLeod, & Mills, 2009).The educational and social needs are also not fully met in schools. Feminism is also blamed for this effect. Over the years, feminism has been advanced by many scholars. Education systems are constantly engaged in initiatives to increase the number of girls within schools. Thus, they are confirmed as feminized to an extent that school systems are harder boy’s survival.
Affirmative action applied during previous years was a major setback that destroys gender. Bank, Delamont, and Marshall (2007) attribute this policy as to why women who mostly gained are those from higher socio-economic status. Bank, Delamont, and Marshall (2007) suggest that schooling systems should equally cater for all genders without considering that some individuals have problems defined by their gender.
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Within educational systems, girls have fewer choices when it comes to subjects. In higher levels of education, there a several subjects that are considered a preserve for men. Few women are able to get an opportunity to do them. Some women also lack opportunities for technical training. Female students are constantly encouraged to take-up courses in social sciences while males take up hard sciences. It is also easier to witness gender biases within a classroom context. According to Skelton, Francis and Smulyan (2006), teachers tend to think that boys are more knowledgeable than girls. This happens often whether the teacher is male or female. Hence, boys are picked often to answer questions in subjects such as mathematics. Unequal gender roles arise easily within the education system. It is easier to influence a growing child in need of knowledge. Leaning gender roles is a habitual process. Thus, students are socialized by both their parents and teachers (Skelton, Francis, & Smulyan, 2006).
Effects of gender identity
Feminism has led to an increased interest on girls’ and women’s education. It has also factored in encouraging research on this field. Bank, Delamont and Marshall (2007) argue that girls’ perspectives and experiences are a result of constant marginalization by male student peers, schooling system and teachers. In many cases, research has focused on the ways in which educational resources are unfairly awarded to boys and attitudes within educational systems that have worked in teaching girls ‘their place in life’. There has also been an increasing interest on research that attacked the masculinity epistemology acting as the basis for the construction of knowledge. By considering these two aspects that have been researched it becomes easier to understand why sex roles and socialization dominate discussions on gender (Bank, Delamont, & Marshall, 2007).
It is suggested that within the education system, teachers should reassure that they care about the student. Moreover, the student will be aware that the teacher is willing to go an extra mile to ensure the child’s success. Development of such an interaction within the education system is a prerequisite to deal with emerging issues in gender. This could prove advantageous when finding ways to solve issues pertaining to masculinity, thus resulting in positive changes. The use of various implications due to unwarranted behavior only leads to evolution of more problems and degeneration of boy’s behaviors. Such decisions only encourage conventional ideas on what is expected of a boy (Bank, Delamont, & Marshall, 2007).
It is easier to solve the underlying problems when the history of boys is considered. Boys tend to be obsessed with authority. For the individual, being a boy was characterized by power and standing up to male teachers in schools. This would show that the boy was tough and not scared. Thus, it becomes easier to find a solution by considering the behaviour. It can then be argued that boys should act in a way that would guarantee them success without considering gender differences (Jones & Barron, 2007). This is considered as a way of being male, where the boy can have a chance of gaining rather than leading to more problems. For such an individual, trying to prove their authority while in school only leads to failure.
In schools, boys and girls are also influenced to embrace less gendered ideas. Thus, feminism pedagogy is used in the explanation of real life experiences. This becomes easier for the audience to relate with and understand the dangers that arise from having a belief on established gender identities (Lesko, 2000). The students should begin to question their normalized understandings on femininity and masculinity.
The concept of gender identity has been advanced in various ways to establish specific principles. According to Lesko, gender as a concept can be understood through opposition and differences. There is always opposition arising from gender. Masculinity or femininity leads to the opposing forces, whereby each side is against the other. Thus, when gender identities are considered in education they lead to disadvantageous consequences in the end. Western countries tend to advance for the interests of men at the expense of women. Men are given a higher priority when opportunities arise. This significantly affects women and only leads to greater belief on gender systems. Considering such a context makes it easier to know how to change the beliefs boys have about masculinity. It should be an ongoing process since positive results can be expected in the end. Supporting the boy’s perspectives of themselves through the use of critical analysis influences them to reconsider beliefs on masculinity. Thus, the environment should be supportive and respective so that these beliefs can be upheld (Lesko, 2000).
Feminist critics also exist who were part of revisions on the education policies in schools during the 1960s and 1970s. This period was marked by the civil rights and women’s rights movements. The traditional context within the education system was questioned broadly. Individuals like Jones and Barron (2007) also developed the issue as they tried to analyze the relationship between gender and education. There was lack of dependable research on the effects of education on gender. They also considered the processes used in establishing knowledge in education (Jones & Barron, 2007). Thus, they realized that historical exclusion of women from research samples meant that the results were not reliable. Moreover, men conducted the research and made generalizations that would also affect women. Thus, the research initiative conducted this way only leads to gender inequality disguised as scientific knowledge.
In conclusion, there are various stereotypes that exist that have led to the development of gender identities, which affect the education of boys and girls. The stereotypes are based on either masculinity of femininity. Thus, students who are not able to biologically meet these stereotypes are faced with discriminatory problems in school. Encouraging each gender on its own has an adverse effect on students. Mixed schools act as secondary agents of socialization, thus students easily remember and practice what they see and experience in school. There is a relationship between mixed education and issues in gender. Its functionality should be considered because it leads to various limitations due to gender identity. There have been varied criticisms arising to show the influence of education on establishing gender identities. These range from the realization that educational policies encourage inequalities to call for change in education strategies within schools.
An effective recommendation on this research for future practice would entail gaining more information on feminist thoughts. This may be beneficial to the success of an educational system and avoiding more problems resulting from mixed sex education. School superintendents should find ways to improve interaction among students of the different genders. Moreover, the effect of education systems on gender identities should be considered more in detail. Education as a social institution should be used in changing the direction of human lives and correcting issues arising from gender identities.
Arnot, M. (2002). Reproducing gender? Essays on educational theory and feminist politics. New York, NY: Routledge Falmer.
Bank, B. J., Delamont, S., & Marshall, C. (2007). Gender and education : an encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
Cole, M. (2006). Education, equalty and human rights: issues of gender. ‘race’, sexuality, disability and social class. New York, NY: Routledge.
Davies, B. (1997). Constructing and deconstructing masculinities through critical literacy. Gender and Education, 9(1), 9-30.
Dillabough, J.-A., McLeod, J., & Mills, M. (2009). Troubling gender in education. New York, NY: Routledge.
Francis, B., & Skelton, C. (2001). Investigating Gender: Contemporary Perspectives in Education. Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press.
Jones, L., & Ian, B. (2007). Research and gender. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group.
Keddie, A., Mills, M.. (2007). Teaching boys: developing classroom practices that work. Wales: Allen & Unwin.
Skelton, C., Francis, B., & Smulyan, L. (2006). The Sage handbook of gender and education. London, UK: SAGE.