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Gender and Educational Attainment in Schools Stephen Machin and Sandra McNally.

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Presentation on theme: "Gender and Educational Attainment in Schools Stephen Machin and Sandra McNally."— Presentation transcript:

1 Gender and Educational Attainment in Schools Stephen Machin and Sandra McNally

2 Girls doing much better! Headline figure for 2002: 9% gap in attainment at GCSE (5+ A*-Cs) Girls outperforming boys in every subject at GCSE At all stages of education (for all ethnic groups)

3 Explanations: media Laddish culture/ macho peer groups / too much football Teachers giving up on boys Extinction of male teachers at primary school Girls mature earlier Coursework element in exams

4 Some research questions At what stage in education is this gap most important? How is gender gap related to changes at school/exam system or wider social and economic changes, e.g. higher education and labour market participation of women; decline in male teachers; cultural changes Can policy make a difference? How does gap in school attainment affect differences in post-compulsory schooling, labour market outcomes?

5 What is going on? – Data sources National Key Stage data-sets: children tested at 7, 11, 14 and 16 (GCSE). General Household Survey: annual survey of 9,000 households from 1972 Longitudinal data-sets: of all children born in a particular week in March 1958 (National Child Development Study) and April 1970 (British Cohort Study)

6 Comparing cohort and national data

7 Gender differences at end of Primary school

8 Raw gender differential over time: secondary schools

9 Gender differential in secondary school: added value model

10 Implications Gaps appear to have widened out in secondary school years over time. English: wide gap in favour of girls that persists over time. Maths: gender gap changes over time (in favour of boys in 70s and 80s, in favour of girls in 90s and 00s)

11 Economic framework Education of children viewed as family investment (Becker model..) Children begin life with inherited ability. Parents make investments….influenced by preferences, income and fertility. Childrens ability and level of parental income and home investment determine schooling attained by children

12 Higher education of mothers Effect through income – higher income, more education Effect on home investment – quantity/quality Tastes/attitude to education of children Most research suggests that mothers education is more influential than fathers; and has a bigger influence on girls education


14 Link between income and the gender differential? Relationship between income and education has changed over time – much stronger now Has this benefited girls more than boys? – depends on mechanism - At least one study showing that increases in household income lead to greater investment in girls schooling (Glick and Sahn, 2000) – but developing country context.


16 Does parental education and income explain gender gap at age 16? Evidence from the GHS

17 Research on male/female characteristics with impact on educational attainment Attributes: Girls: more attentive; longer concentration span; give fewer discipline problems; but less confident than boys Learning styles: Boys show greater adaptability to more traditional approaches to learning…memorising abstract, unambiguous facts that have to be acquired quickly…willing to sacrifice deep understanding for correct answers achieved at speed

18 Coursework vs. exams - Study of GCSE Maths (Stobart, 1992): Boys achieve a small mark advantage in exams, which offset girls small advantage in coursework. -Creswell (1990): 1989 GCSE exams in English, Maths and Science. Girls marks for coursework higher; Maths and Science: Boys marks for exams higher. -Ranking of subjects in terms of coursework (Stobart et al. 1992), Improved performance of girls directly related to the weighting and type of coursework

19 Coursework vs. exams Elwood (1995): study of GCSE Maths and English. Gender differential present in courses when coursework element was reduced; gender gap most pronounced for syllabuses not 100% assessed by coursework. In English, restriction imposed in 1994 from 100% to 40% coursework - performance gap did not reduce.

20 Influence of method of assessment Multiple choice assessment: The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) – boys doing considerably better than girls in Maths and Science, whereas doing about the same in GCSE (Key, Harris and Fernandes, 1996)


22 Conclusion Descriptive analysis shows girls doing better over time, and that the change in gender gaps largely driven by changes at secondary school level. Shift in gender differential after the introduction of GCSEs – likely to be the most important explanation for growth in the gender gap and suggests policy can matter. Testing this further? - Most straightforward way would be to compare English students to students of another comparable exam system (Republic of Ireland?) before and after the introduction of GCSEs in England

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