Discuss the ways that schooling experiences are shaped by gender, relating you discussion to the shaping of student social relations.
Aspects of injustices associated with gender inequalities and schooling can be found in every country around the world" (Unterhalter, 2007, p. 1). In Australia, gender differences have caused a lot of debate. Although equity among men and women has come a long way over the past century, there is still concern within the Australian community "about the position of women in society" (Robinson, 2005, p. 21). Gender equity does not only refer to providing males and female the same opportunities, but is also about removing specific gender stereotypes within our society which may limit an individual opportunities and choices (Koch & Irby, 2005). Although in previous decades female inequity was commonly observed within education, this has now
In previous centuries the education and the school curriculum has been focused around the outcomes of the male population (Ivinson & Murphy, 2007), although, in todays' society, schools offers a range of subjects which cover the interests both genders, giving each gender the opportunity to achieve success. The term curriculum throughout this essay refers to the "educations system's shared assumptions, however formulated, about the main things in which pupils should do and learn at school" (Becher & Maclure, 1978, p. 16). The focus on male education and curriculum often came back to not only gender inequities within an educational context but also the way society itself was structured during that time (Unterhalter, 2007). So it could be said that the gender gap within society in previous centuries can be blamed for the differing access and education levels in females opposed to that of males.
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In the past, the focus on male education meant that males typically outnumbered and outperformed their fellow female students within the classroom, particularly in subject which were thought to be more highly skilled (Bailey, 2002). While males tended to participate in subjects areas such as mathematics, science and computer studies, females generally has a higher enrolment rate in humanity subjects, including English, language and arts (Bailey, 2002). Although the previous statement suggests that female students did not enrol to study mathematics, science and computer studies this was not the case. Female students were enrolled in all three of the male dominated subject but tended to opt for the course which was considered not as highly skilled (Bailey, 2002). This trend may be a reflection of stereotypes within the era, with the focus of the male being to pursue a career, whilst the female becomes a home maker. The differing numbers of males and females within subjects that were considered to be highly skilled may also imply that female students will not take the opportunity to excel further than the expectation that has already placed on them within the educational. Unterhalter (2007) confirms this assumption when saying that "within schools, gendered assumptions about what girls should learn, whether they can learn, and what the outcome of their learning will be often means that girls do not get adequate support from teacher, do not have knowledge in subjects that attract status and do not proceed to secondary school" (p. 8). This portrays the idea that it is not necessary for female students to excel themselves within education as it will not be essential in the life they will lead in the future. It would be fair to say that with gender inequities and stereotyping within an educational context would greatly impact an individual's relations with other, as it creates a limitation as to the socialisation an individual can have with another.
The inequities and stereotypes discussed within the previous paragraphs is what lead to feminist movements around to world to create equal learning opportunities for female students within education. The idea of curriculum being based on "human rather than sex-specific" expectation was explored by feminism groups, to try and bridge the gap of inequity which was apparent in schools during this time (Committee on Social Change and the Education of Women. Study Group, 1975, p. 158). In Australia, the Schools Commission was developed to assist in 'bridging the education gap' between males and females. The Minister for education at this time, Kim Beazley, announced an enquiry into this issue saying that "for far too long girls have been underachieving in school and ending their formal education early. This has restricted the careers and life chances open to them" (Committee on Social Change and the Education of Women. Study Group, 1975, p. 2). It was believed by the government that it was time to educate males and females equally and that the distinction in education between the sexes may be harmful to oneself and unnecessary (Committee on Social Change and the Education of Women. Study Group, 1975). In 1975 the Committee on Social Change and the Education of Women released a report (girls, schools and society) at the conclusion of their inquiry into female equity within education, "which framed girls as a discrete category of students who were uniformly disadvantaged" (O'Donovan, 2006, p. 480). The Girls School and Society Report influenced others to complete their own research on female inequity within a school context and over ten years later a new report was release by the Commonwealth Schools Commission (National policy for the education of girls, 1987), which placed an emphasis on female students; "cultural, language and socio economic diversity" (O'Donovan, 2006, p. 480). The emphasis placed on female diversity was sustained in the following years when two national policies were created, firstly National action plan for the education of girls (1993), followed by Gender equity: A framework for Australian schools in 1997 (O'Donovan, 2006).
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In recent years, due to the movements of feminist groups, a new trend is emerging, with male students now suffering from reduced performance within the Australian classroom. It appears that by challenging female equity in schooling that "some 'gender' program have focused [too much] on girls" and that boys have been left behind in the process (Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs [MCEECDYA], 1997). The push in previous decades to try and increase female equity within the educational system has resulted in a complete 360 degree turn, with male students now falling behind in their studies in comparison to their fellow female students (Younger & Warrington, 2007). An inquiry
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Gender equity: A framework for Australian schools in 1997 (O'Donovan, 2006).