The feminist viewpoint of girls in education is that their education prepares girls for: conflict perspective, culture transmission, passing on the norms and values of the dominant group of society, training for work, prepares young people for work in a complex advanced society but prepares girls to accept unpleasant and low-status jobs. Social selection: Legitimises the status quo (patriarchy), justification for inequality. Social control: children learn to accept their position in society through the hidden curriculum.
Sue Sharpe [1978 and 1994] found that women’s priorities had changed to job, career and being able to support themselves. She found girls were more confident, more assertive, more ambitious and more committed to equality.
Dale Spender writing in 1983’s ‘Invisible Women: the Schooling Scandal’ found that schools were patriarchal, male dominated institutions and that teachers tended to favour male pupils over female pupils; teachers paid more attention to male pupils and boys dominated the classes. His research found that girls tended to work harder and were more motivated than boys. They put more effort into the presentation of their work and they read more and concentrated for longer in lessons.
Boys were outperforming girls up until 1996 when girls began to outperform boys in all 15 of the most popular GCSE subjects. Mac and Ghaill (1996) argued that boys were facing a ‘crisis of masculinity’. Boys are socialised into thinking that they must have a job and be a breadwinner for the family. But there has been a decline in working class ‘masculine jobs’ which previously defined their self-identity.
There are more women teachers than men teachers and as a result young males have fewer adult male role models at school. Half of all headships at primary and nursery schools in England and Wales are held by women.
Boys gain ‘street cred’ from not doing homework and being one of the lads. Boys are more likely to form deviant subcultures (Paul Willis). This anti-school subculture places emphasis on laddishness, being aggressive and macho. Less able boys are virtually unemployable because they lack interest, drive, enthusiasm and social skills (Burns & Bracey, 2001)
Teachers are not as critical with boys. Teachers have lower expectations of boys. It is more likely that boys will be permanently excluded from schools due to behavioural problems. There has been a significant increase in the number of expulsions from all schools in England and Wales. (DfES)
There have been specific government policy initiatives to raise female achievement: ‘Girls Into Science and Technology’ [GIST] and ‘Women Into Science and Engineering’ [WISE] are the two most prominent. Up to 2011, many GCSE course were coursework-heavy and girls are generally consistent and conscientious with regards to coursework.
There are now more employment opportunities for women.
Subjects are seen as girls subjects and boys subjects. Girls choose English, Art, Humanities and Biology while boys choose Maths, Science and IT.
The family, peer group and media socialise girls to leave school early, get married and do ‘women’s jobs’. Sharpe in 1976 described how girls learned the priorities of love, marriage, husbands, children, jobs and careers. McRobbie  looked at the content of romantic magazines and their influences on girls’ expectations. Griffin  suggested that leaving school early was seen by working class girls as an escaped from their responsibility from housework, as employment raised their status in the family. Fuller argued that West Indian girls were determined to get jobs which would ensure their independence from men.
In the year 2000 the proportion of girls achieving 5 grade Cs or above at GCSE was 53% compared with 43% of boys achieving this 16+ benchmark. Girls have gained a higher proportion of passes at A-level than boys since 1992 but in 2000, for the first time, they attained more A grades than boys.
Courtesy of Lee Bryant, Director of Sixth Form, Anglo-European School, Ingatestone, Essex