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June 28, 2014

Sociological Explanation of Educational Achievement Gap between Boys and Girls

We can define academic success as the successful student is one who has acquired new knowledge and new skills in a timely manner agreed by the educational institution, in accordance with the current curriculum. Note that the notions of success and failure are related to the school, its programs and its evaluation standards. This concept involves the comparison between students within the same group or with respect to a reference group. For example, comparing boys and girls in the same class, or comparing girls to boys taken as the reference group.  Note also that school failure has far more been a subject of concern than the success itself. Political power and society, indeed, tend to encourage scholars and researchers to focus on the questions that appear as "social problems". But "the social problem "is the massive failure of working-class children.
Difference in attitude between Boys and Girls
The amazing strength of socioeconomic inequalities in access to education has occupied only the front of sociological as well as the political stage; however, gender inequality in educational achievement has the fundamental importance. The research found that boys tend to dominate school space, especially they are more likely to ask "spontaneously" (without even invited by the teacher) and tend to boost trade, leading to observe a total duration of greater verbal interactions with them (Cassen & Kingdon, 2007). This type of differentiation would create "more positive" boys in mathematics and girls in reading and writing. These expectations function as "Self-fulfilling prophecies," feeding the slightest confidence of girls and overvaluation of boys in mathematics.  
The issue of academic failure of boys is a recent concern of our society. Historical data on school completion show that the gap between boys and girls has been very wide. This issue is a concern and the subject of many discussions.  Some comments that express the state of affairs:
·         Both the elementary and secondary boys repeat more than girls;
·         No matter what level of education, the graduation rate for boys is less than the girls;
·         Boys are twice as likely as girls to be classified in the category of students at risk;
·         The rate of access to higher education (college and university) is much higher among girls (Reay, David & Ball, 2005).
Girls show greater consideration for authority and are more likely to comply with the rules, including those of the school. The boys are in conflict with the school. Most of the girls live a rapprochement with school while most boys want and do everything to distance himself.  A boy sees difficulty in school as a burden. The order of priority for the boy is the diploma, friends, grades and learning (Abouserie, Moss & Barasi, 1992).  The group of boys entering college to study had very different behavior than their peers. In fact 45% of boys spent half hours or less per day to their studies, while the proportion of girls for similar behavior was only 24% (Abouserie, Moss & Barasi, 1992).  
Although more women than men hold a first degree, they are less active than men in mathematics, engineering and architecture. In many countries, however, women obtain on average more often than men with a university degree in arts and medicine. Equality between men and women is almost reached in Commerce, Law and life sciences. In most developed countries, advance taken by the girls in the secondary school, is confirmed. The probability of obtaining a first graduation from high school is higher for girls.
Gap in Educational Achievements at Primary Level
In primary education, girls show more educational achievements than boys. It is therefore understandable that the rate of girls graduated exceeds with that of boys. Research in this particular area has proved that the strongest variations due to social background and age (Henderson & Mapp, 2002). However, sex plays a second but important role (Nicole, 1998). The following table will depict the girls lead over boys and the gap remains constant
Pupil Category
% gaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE Grades inc English and Maths in 2008/9
% gaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE Grades  inc English and Maths in 2009/10
% gaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE Grades inc English and maths in 2010/11
% gaining 5 or more A*-C GCSE Grades inc. English and Maths in 2011/12
Boys FSM
Girls  FSM
Total FSM
Boys NFSM/Unclassified
Girls NFSM/Unclassified
Total NFSM/Unclassified
All Boys
All Girls
All Pupils
However, in mathematics, the gender gap is very small and boys and girls are almost equal at the primary level. In exercises of involving the manipulation direct and comprehensive grasp of spatial figures, boys dominate clearly. Similarly exercises that require effective control and disciplined reading, girls show significantly higher results and in exercises that do not affect these two elements which results in balance. In total, differences in performance between boys and girls are minimal (Pottorff et al., 1996).
At primary level, although there is a difference in achievement gap between boys and girls but this gap is not so wide and boys and girls find themselves generally equal. Subsequently, the differences are widening in favor of girls in regard to learning of reading and writing the language of instruction, while we do not find similar results in mathematics and science (Angel &  Ferrer, 2010).
Gap at Secondary Level
The gap between the percentage of girls and boys who complete a high school diploma grows in favor of girls for nearly last three decades. In 1995, 63.5% of girls have a degree to enter the labor market(Diploma of secondary vocational training or college, as well as BA) against 49.2% for boys. Graduation is a direct link with the school results. Indeed, the diploma is issued on the basis of results of examinations in compulsory subjects (Ogg, Zimdars & Heath, 2009).
In high school, the differences already observed at the primary level, in language learning persists. In 1996-97, 44% of boys and 33% girls were in a position to delay school for difference of 11%. In 1997-1998, 25.3% of boys and 17.3% of girls are behind in school at the age of 12 years.  At the secondary level, the gap between boys and girls late at school at the age of 16, was 40% and 26.7% for boys and girls respectively. Many of these students will take individualized paths and the majority of them will never get graduated. So for a number of students, the delay means the end of education.
Reasons for inequality
The better performance of girls can be elaborated with the help of two contradictory explanations. The first is to use what is believed to be the common experience. Girls are less mobile or agitated and more docile and show more adherences to the rules, so they would fit better in the requirements of teachers. Girls "apply lot "and" listen to everything. Thus, the best explanation of the success of girls would refer to more common stereotypes of women (submission, docility, passivity). When we say that girls do better their "student business", it is not an euphemistic way of saying the same thing? In fact, it is the ambiguity of this notion. How do you define "student job"?
Sadker (1999) shows a cohort of students through two crucial moments (transition from kindergarten to primary and primary to college) that girls are no more intelligent (as measured by the tests), but they make better use of their intelligence to adapt collective learning situations. It distinguishes among academic behaviors observed, "active", "participation and passive instability.  Only active participation is correlated with good achievement. This "active participation", results in a set of behaviors that reflect a selective vigilance attention to relatively durable and autonomy in execution of the task, interdependent qualities that characterize more girls than boys. Passive participation made listening responsiveness and attention has no effect, either positive or negative, on grades. It does not necessarily prevent learning, but it can also be a sign, especially among students of popular origin, lack of control of the school situation. As for the boys, they are often characterized by mobility behavior and instability are signs of stalling attention and are associated with poor school performance. Thus, the observations of Sadker clearly refutes the hypothesis of a passivity of girls who succeed and puts forward the idea of​​learning styles more effective than those of boys.
However, two objections can be made to his thesis. Firstly, it returns the superiority of girls in a biological origin: The adaptive superiority of girls is not in their docility, nor their conformity or passivity, but more assured in their harmonious development (Sadker, 1999). Thus, according to this thesis, each student has to be considered in his or her individually and not in the dynamics of the class.  Baudelot & Establet (1992) proposed the idea of ​​a double culture: culture of compliance among girls and culture among boys. This Culture disservice to boys in the early years of schooling and when the system becomes more competitive. In the first school years, girls draw bet on their ability to internalize rules, express themselves in the framework of the school, to take account of others in their personal strategies. Too much want to say, well the boys are hard to get into the game at school. The first round is for women. But at the moment everything changed direction.
Several researchers who have researched in the subject of students’ educational achievements reported two main factors that distinguish students a chance to academic success and risk of failure, i.e. socio-economic origin and gender (Heath & Cheung, 2007; Sullivan, Heath & Rothon, 2011). Social origin refers especially in the middle class families: parents' occupation, parents’ schooling, maternal employment, number of children in family etc. So generally, a student (boy or girl) is more likely to get academic success if he or she comes from an affluent background. As for gender, it was observed that girls perform better in school than boys, regardless of social background, but nevertheless the gap between boys and girls is greater in students of modest social background. We discuss these factors under Marxism and Feminism theories.
Sociological Explanation of Marx
In Marx’s view, the elite in any society are those who own capital, the means of economic production. In contrast to these capitalists, or bourgeoisie, are those who own no capital and therefore have no significant social or political power: the exploited workers or proletariat.  One of the most powerful predictors of academic success or failure is socioeconomic status. Simply put, the higher the social-class level of a child’s home, the more likely he or she will succeed in school. The mother’s level of education has a particularly strong correlation with a child’s academic performance (Ensminger & Slusarcick, 1992). Of course, it is not parental income or level of education per se that is responsible for a child’s success in school. Sociologists point instead to such factors as the cultural capital that affluent parents transmit to their children. Students from the upper classes not only learn reading skills and numbers during their preschool years, they also read appropriate books, visit museums, attend symphonic concerts, and in other ways acquire through their family socialization all the experiences, values and personality traits that school require for academic excellence (Nooriafshar, 2001). One study found that student’s work habits and citizenship figure strongly in the way teachers award grades (Xu, 2002).
Disadvantaged homes, on the other hand, can be identified by several markers: minority racial or ethnic identity, low income, single-parent head of household, and non-English speaking background. How do these social characteristics stand between a child and school success?
 Having a single- parent head of household is an especially strong predictor of dropping out of school (Fitzpatrick & Yoels, 1992). Students from such homes earn lower grades and test scores, partly because single parents are likely to be minority members and to have low levels of education. Also, single parents (and stepparents) tend to give their children less encouragement and help with schoolwork. The rest of the explanation lies less in such family’s economic circumstances than in the student’s own misbehavior, including absenteeism, lateness, and not doing homework (Catsambis, 2001). The research does not explain such misbehaviors, but anger, frustration, and inadequate parental supervision are cited as possibilities. While students from single parent’s homes certainly can do well in school, this background factor is generally viewed as a disadvantaged.
Researchers have identified another disadvantage students can bring with them to school: large family size. Generally speaking, family size correlates negatively with academic success- the larger the family, the lower achievement tends to be– though race, the mother’s age, the presence of other adults in the household, and other factors complicate this picture. The difference may result from children in small families receiving more attention and intellectual stimulation from their parents (Dodd & Konzal, 2000).
The personal constellations within the childhood home also make a difference. For example, the fewer siblings, the greater are one’s chances for upward mobility, partly because of the greater attention and financial support children receive in small families. Similarly, the first-born son, the youngest son in a small family, and only children have better opportunities than other children to move up the social ladder (Crozier, Reay & Clayton, 2009). Moreover, because parents often see sons as better long-term financial investments, several brothers are more serious obstacles to an individual’s mobility chances than are sisters (Powel & Steelman, 1989).
Christenson (1995) modulates these observations by taking into account the family: the rumpus is more often the result of boys, regardless of their family environment; however, active participation in the classroom depends less on the sex than the social class: white-collar families typically serve as models through their own educational accomplishments. Middleclass parents provide intellectual and academic stimulation: speaking and reading to children, asking them questions about a story, and so on. Middleclass parents are more likely to show interest in their children’s studies, monitor and challenge the instructors and the school, attends parent-teacher conferences, and use outside experts, if necessary. Such parents serve as sophisticated, confident, and effective advocates and guides throughout their children’s education. Parental expectations are positively correlated to student’s achievement and college attendance. Clearly, some homes offer advantages but others do not (Kelly-Laine, 1998). Fathers, in middle class families, coming home from occupations in which they exert control over the work of others convey a sense of self-direction to their children. Sons born to older fathers have an advantage because such fathers tend to have higher educational, employment, and economic statuses, and weaker competing role demands. Mothers, usually serve as models for their daughters regarding work behavior (Tickamyer and Blee, 1990).
Students from lower or working class homes and minority groups tend not to perform as well in schools as socioeconomically advantaged students. Bowles & Gintis (1976) use the Marxist perspective to explain that schools serve to reproduce the social class system of the haves and have-nots. According to their correspondence, principal, the organization of the school mirrors that of the workplace. Working class students are placed in tracks that teach them docility, compliance, and conformity to authority, along with manual work skills. In contrast, students from the homes of the capitalized elite end up in tracks that foster independence and leadership. Other researchers, however, contend that this principle exaggerated the degree to which the upper classes control the structure and function of schools (Macleod, 1987) and that it reduce students and teachers to passive role players in the capitalist system (Mehan, 1992).    
Whether or not the higher failure rate of the working class is the result of a capitalist stratagem, the argument remains that the school experience tends to legitimate social class in equalities. Not realizing that the system works against them, those from disadvantaged background typically learn one overriding lesson in school: they are not as able or competent as students from the middle class. For these students, schools are a source of discouragement rather than social mobility.
Explanation from Feminist Perspective
In Western societies, it is feminism which imposed a consideration of the variable "sex", as well as the variable "class" to highlight the gendered nature - in equal class - of failure and academic success. Feminism and the dominant values ​​of our society could have an impact on the development of identity among young students.
Nicole (1989) advances an idea to explain the lack of equality under the introduction of co-education colleges and high school. According to Nicole there was no public debate questioning the purposes of this evolution. The idea of same sex schools were rejected by the Feminists in the beginning of the century but it was adopted as a solution to a shortage of local teachers.  Nevertheless, the research has shown that in classes for girls, teachers sometimes make sexist allusions against women tend to simplify or content (especially in science) as if they were available to them. And in the boys' classes, there is sometimes encouragement from a male teacher, certain aggressiveness.
Feminist activists supported the idea of co-education schools because it provides diversity and equality to both the genders. Same sex schools are often more selective (Private pay) than mixed schools and the success of girls in such schools can then be attributed to a higher social background and school curriculum. Nevertheless, it has been found that when the social origin and course of such schools are controlled, there is no longer a significant effect of diversity on performance of girls.
According to Block (1983) the preference for mixed schools is largely predominant, including among students. It has been observed that a greater critical distance and greater self-confidence has been shown by the girls in mixed schools. These last show less inclined to overvalue scientific studies and especially less fear of competition with boys in these areas that girls have never faced boys in school. Unlike those in effect past, they have found that boys were not always best in mathematics or they could have other interests than football and video games. Girls are more critical and ironic towards dominant behavior of boys.
Review of literature shows that differences found in attitudes, perceptions and performance of girls and boys in schools are minor, once considered their main characteristics (including their socio-economic class and cultural origin). Everything changes, at times compelling guidance to school, because it takes bluff, overestimate its own merits and display appropriate claims. However, the research involves a simplistic model again oppositions between competition (Male) and consistency (= docility of Female). On the other hand, this explanation is cheap - sociologists paradoxically – showing differences between classes. Girls, whose issues compared to the peer group expressed much less by the need to assert themselves and perhaps by that to acceptance (by the teacher and the peer group, where achievement may be a factor of popularity), can concentrate better on educational content and learning.
The strategy of some boys at school is to adopt a primary and dominance behavior in the classroom. This situation not only occurs in large classes but it is also modulated by the social position of students. Some boys, who are in high social position, give importance to school issues, especially when, it appears in the form of public discussion, in addition to mathematics. For others, especially those in low social position, it is not sure that the school is also important issue. The school is easily imagined as an intellectual workplace, "false" labor compared to "real" job, the one is made with hands, that which affirm the strength and "manliness". Try assert themselves in this environment, it is losing its values ​​and take big risks because, in this area, the superiority is not guaranteed (Francis & Hey, 2009). Presumably affirmation is more resisted in the school culture where gossip or dropping of attention is the remarks of discipline, these remarks are boys (in a low position on the academic or social). In this context, recreation is a much more important issue than the class to ensure its dominance.
For girls, on the contrary, education is a key issue; it is related to a recent conquest and a possibility of paid work, a work in imitation of their mothers to daughters of the middle classes or favored unskilled work less than their mothers, for those whose mothers are working. So solidarity is often an issue for them as it is not the first to assert themselves against peers, but to learn to ensure a future. The research on girls related to lower social classes, shows that these students do better in larger classes than in smaller class sizes (Heath & Sullivan, 2009). For them this is due to that can take the lesson in a position of anonymity, having little to make their private thinking public. These students show less learning difficulties and learning in a state of greater peace - A situation that would be more conducive to learning. Similarly, one might assume that girls are under less stress but also less concerned to appear and assert their power by publicly expressing their thoughts and are more focused on learning tasks and learn in a situation of greater peace and greater efficiency.
But this success in the short term may also impact less longer term, if one is from the point of view of the respective square occupied by boys and girls. Because they do not learn to be assertive, to speak publicly or to consider their personal thoughts important. In addition, with respect to knowledge, boys and girls occupy different places, which may be supposed to prefigure those two genders in the adult world. Because, in the observed sequence, we can see some girls (good or average students) are attendants to recall knowledge already acquired.
Some boys, however - not all, especially the students of high school and middle class position rather favored - are allowed or encouraged to produce new knowledge and to articulate in speech and public writing. Nevertheless, we can consider that this division of labor is what is largely assigned to men and women in today's society: transmit, teach tasks supposedly "feminine" produce knowledge and "masculine" new tasks. These observations illustrate the daily school life, a division of labor between the sexes in relation to knowledge.


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