Gender in the Secondary Curriculum: Balancing the Books

Gender in the Secondary Curriculum: Balancing the Books

Gender in the Secondary Curriculum: Balancing the Books

Gender in the Secondary Curriculum: Balancing the Books


The "gender gap" in test results continues to be of prime concern, and there is now a real need for knowledge about how teachers can address this gap. In this volume, a team of contributors considers the gender issues particular to each subject of the secondary curriculum. They discuss effective strategies supported by their research and practice, and offer some ways forward for teachers.


Ann Clark and Elaine Millard

Since the re-emergence of feminism and the arrival of the Women's Movement in the late 1960s, with its historic coupling of the personal and the political, two generations of feminist academics have succeeded in calling into question the way in which the social and cultural relationships of men and women in the home and the workplace can be conceptualised and researched. By the 1970s, feminist scholarship, which had its beginnings in literary, sociological and linguistic theories, reflected in the work of Millett, Mitchell and Spender, created the conditions for the introduction of both new areas of study and alternative methods of researching existing disciplines such as the sociology of education. Several books were published in the 1970s and early 1980s by well-established writers such as Arnot, Byrne, David, Deem, Delamont and Spender, and the obvious interest in this new area of scholarship led to the inception of the journal Gender and Education in 1989 (see Acker, 1994). At the same time, the Sex Discrimination Act (1975), whilst difficult to enforce, provided an impetus in the 1980s for equal opportunities initiatives in school and the workplace, focused on improving the status and employment opportunities of women.

Similarly, feminist scholarship contributed to the growth of Women's Studies courses, which, in conjunction with the work of a wide number of feminists engaged in education, have focused specifically on the gendered nature of schooling and documented the effect of gender difference in a wide range of classroom and playground settings. Beginning from simple notions of sexual stereotyping and role modelling, researchers have moved to more complex models of analysis, such as gender regime and gendered identity. the cumulative effect of this work has been twofold. Firstly, there is now a general acceptance in educational contexts that schools tend to confirm pupils in their gendered identities, and secondly, there is a recognition that the effect of schooling, at every level of education, from preschool to post-16, works to increase rather than reconcile difference. Marland (1983) articulated this viewpoint in the now often-quoted pronouncement that schools act merely as 'amplifiers for society's stereotypes'.

From the earliest years, girls and boys in the same classroom have been observed to create quite different educational experiences for themselves (Weiner, 1985; Walkerdine, 1989; Delamont, 1990). in observing very young children, Licht and

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