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UK Education: An analysis of the significance of gender at key stage 5 and beyond

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  1. Introduction.
    1. The governments own statistics.
    2. The most noticeable difference.
    3. Subjects that boys would be most suited to.
    4. The design of exams.
  2. Main findings.
    1. How do male and female results compare subject to subject?
    2. Differences in the examination.
    3. The link between personality and attaining a high score at A-level.
  3. Conclusion.
  4. Bibliography.

Recently it has been argued that the underachievement of boys has been happening for many years (Epston, Elwood ET. Al. 1999), it was simply the fact that female students were prevented from entering schools that enable this to go unnoticed for so long. During the days of the 11 plus it was well documented that boys performed at a lower level than girls. More girls (nationally) obtained the highest marks in these examinations. A direct consequence of this was that girls had to do far better than boys in order to gain a place at grammar school. It was thought, at the time, although boys underachieved (compared to girls) in the 11 plus, their future educational potential was greater (Dillon and Maguire 1997). In today's schools and colleges underachievement of boys (compared with girls of the same age) would seem to be a nationwide. Many schools have adopted specific strategies in an attempt to tackle the problem. National daily newspapers regularly offer publicity to this issue (commonly referred to as the 'gender gap') as does the TES (TES 1999).

[...] This example can be thought to suggest that teachers regard the differing success of males and females (at A-level) in a different way than they do at GCSE. This difference in attitudes could be having some impact on performance. The language used to describe a good GCSE student compared with the language used to describe a good A-level student further illustrates this point. At GCSE hard work is rewarded along with organisation and communication skills. At A-level words used to refer to a good student tend to be flair or unique. [...]


[...] Clearly (1992) and Willingham and Cole (1997) have all suggested that once a sample includes only students from the upper end of a grade distribution, gender performance will greatly depend on the male to female ratio. They point out that overall the statistics of the sample will influence gender differences more than any other factor. These problems in gender enrolment are further magnified from subject to subject. The difference in the uptake of male and female students for certain subjects is vast. [...]


[...] During the last five years large amounts of publicity have been used to in an attempt to persuade more girls into science, engineering and technology subjects. Glossy pamphlets and posters aimed towards girls adorn most secondary school science labs. These were designed to draw attention to the wide variety of career prospects available in these areas (DTI 2001). Recently an article appeared in the Times Educational supplement (1998), this talked about "the many underlying causes of the continued sex differences in science uptake and performance in both further and higher education". [...]

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