1.2.3 Gender bias in experiences of education
Research shows that historically boys, in fact, were 70 per cent more likely to receive additional help than girls, when all other factors, such as academic test scores, behaviour ratings and family background, were equal (Sacker, Schoon and Bartley, 2001). There is also more recent evidence that this form of gender bias continues to exist (Daniels et al., 1999, cited in Sacker et al., 2001).
After looking at gender differences in a school chess club, Ingrid Galitis concluded that, even in our ‘arguably enlightened age of gender awareness’, schools continue to ‘transmit and reinforce inequalities between the sexes, albeit in more subtle and less overt forms than in the past’ (Galitis, 2002, p. 71). The following field observations, made in a streamed secondary context, illustrate the gendered experiences of pupils in PE lessons:
Leanna's team always comes last – she moves very slowly, and has difficulty with the games that involve a ball and/or feature complex instructions. Jonathon is also on the losing team, and he is getting fed up, remarking at first to himself, and then publicly, ‘this is a rubbish team’. Ken re-divides the children for the last game, into two teams. The game requires each pair of children to sit facing each other at a distance, race around the edge of the hall when their pair's turn comes, run into the middle, and kick a ball over one of the benches which have been upturned at the end of the ‘ladder’ of children. Leanna cries at first, because she doesn't understand what to do. I find myself at first thinking how damaging competition is, and how the problem here is that there have to be winners and losers. But then I find myself getting really into the competition, especially when the pairs are evenly matched – it's exciting. When all of the pairs have had a turn, Ken ends the lesson. As they line up, Karl notes to Iftekar that ‘your team won because you were nearly all boys, our team only had two boys’.
(George Holt quoted in Benjamin et al., 2002, p. 6)
Gender, one aspect of identity, can be used to build or maintain exclusionary processes. Pupils themselves can act as inclusion ‘gate keepers’ (Allan, 1999) by allowing others into or excluding them from aspects of school life, social and curricula.