Gender and Education

Term Paper, 2011

27 Pages, Grade: A


Table of contents


Examination of feminist theories on gender inequality

Gender identity and socialization

Impact of culture and Gender in education sector

Gender discrimination and biases in classroom teaching and curriculum

The interaction of gender, race, class and ethnicity

Eco-feminism and education

Gender equality as organizational change in education sector

Evaluation of gender Equality policies in relation to Education

Education and Women in developing countries

The positive impact of women and leadership programs in Education Sector




Education is universally recognized as playing role in sustainable social and economic development. Regardless of the ideology underlying approaches to development, education improves the quality of life; it improves health, expands access to paid employment, increases productivity in market and non-market work, and facilitates social and political participation. Because of these facts, the education of girls and women is therefore an important investment, despite the precarious economic contexts within which many countries have to provide for education. Gender refers to historical and sociological relationships between women and men. If development is seen as an attempt to raise the quality of life all citizen, gender in development works toward ensuring that the special needs of women with respect to those of men, are met in this process. However, significant gender inequalities exist in education sector. These inequalities are found not only in indicators which can be rapidly obtained from statistical sources such as literacy, enrolment, achievement and levels of schooling attained, but also in several other aspects of education which are of concern in the pursuit of gender equality and equity such as management personnel in decision-making roles, curriculum content and reform, and the pupil-teacher interaction.

Gender and Education


The aspect of gender inequality and biases were deeply rooted in the past in all aspects of life. Education was therefore considered as a way of liberating the weaker sex (females) from the menace of gender discrimination and biases. Gender discrimination and inequality are still witnessed in educational sectors where boys are well treated in classrooms or even by the school administrators as compared to girls. This is so because in many secondary and primary schools, the population of boys in one particular school is not comparable to that of girls. From a sociological perspective, gender and education refers to the idea that the education sector is does not provide similar opportunities to both men and women for upward mobility. This indicates that both genders are not treated equally by the education system. Sex discrimination is applied in education system which affects both males and females during and after their educational experiences. Most parents, especially in developing and less developed countries, still believe that educating a boy child is more beneficial as opposed to educating a girl child (Onsoumu et al, 2006, p. 26). These beliefs have resulted to a country having more learned boys or males than females. In developed countries like European countries, some parts of Asia, and the United States of America, there has been increased attention to gender matters and this has brought about greater achievements (Sempruch, 2006, p. 67).

Across these countries, there is much greater awareness of gender inequality as an educational issue than it was the case in the past. This indicates that educational sector has come to consider females to a greater extent in education in order to empower then to be able to take up employment opportunities similar to men’s. In the current world, women in general have increased their education attainment and they are competing with men in employment opportunities (Skelton, 2005, p. 18). In the whole world the level of attainment of education of men and women is different where men are mostly considered as much more elite as compared to women (Pereira, 2007, p. 45). In this respect, for every 88 women, there are 100 men who have acquired education. This is a good indication that gender discriminations and biases in education are still prevalent.

One thing that should be noted is that, gender inequality, bias, or even discrimination does not happen by accident but it is well planned in order to suppress women from achieving what men are achieving (Wilkinson, 2005, p. 78). William and Bartholomew, (2004, p. 81) have indicated that educational institutions are viewed as institution of cultural and social reproduction and hence there is production of inequality especially gender inequality that is reproduced through formal and informal processes. In educational systems, the process of taking up courses especially in secondary education portrays the concept of gender inequality. This is because women or females are considered as weak and hence they are discouraged from taking up hard courses like chemistry and mathematics (Wilkinson & Kate, 2009, p. 45). This type of discrimination is represented in the process of job searching as girls since they were not able to take hard sciences seriously they are employed in other fields but not in engineering fields. The process of course taking in secondary schools portrays a large gender gap especially when considering the type of courses taken by boys and girls and their future occupational paths.

Examination of feminist theories on gender inequality

Women in the whole world are considered as the weaker sex and hence they are treated differently from how men are treated. In other words, women in most cases experience a lot of oppression in all aspects of life (Witkowska & Ewa, 2005, p. 83). Feminism is the movement that is intended to end women oppression. Sex term is one way that is used in understanding women. In this respect, women are considered as inferior to men and hence even in educational sector they are supposed to take up courses that are different from men’s. According to different feminist theorists, the terms sex and gender are used in referring to two different things (Yronides, 2007, p. 99). The term sex is used in denoting human males and females depending on biological characteristics like sex organs, hormones, and other physical features. On the other hand, the term gender refers to men and women depending on social connotations. There are different theories postulated by feminists to indicate that women as well as men are equal in all aspects of life (Skelton et al, 2006, p. 78).

a) Social construction theory

In this theory, inequality is considered as the core aspect of gender itself. This implies that men and women are socially different as a way of justifying the aspect of treating them unequally. Gender is usually intertwined with other unequal aspects of life, hence finding solutions to the gendered part of these aspects of inequality is considered as the most difficult due to the fact that gendering is so persistent (Zadja & Freeman, 2009, p. 23). According to Bank et al (2007, p. 45), in education sector there are social construction that women should not be equal to men in attainment of education. This aspect is being fought by the feminists as they indicate that it is only social constructions that hinder women from attaining equal levels of education to men but they are capable of attaining them. Unterhalter and Aikman (2007, p. 36) reveal that, it is because of the pervasiveness that is associated with the concept of gender that makes people to believe that the aspect of gender is biological and hence natural.

The main focus of social construction feminism is the processes that show gender differences and as a result render the concept of gender as invisible. It should be noted that the aspect of gender is social and hence it should not be considered as natural. This implies that women just like men are able to pursue their academics well at schools (Fennell & Arnot, 2007, p. 23). One of the factors that make people to believe that gender is natural is the gendered division of labor that was used in the traditional days. During this time especially in developing and less developed countries, women were not allowed to attain education as they were considered to be working within the domestic arena. On the other hand, men who were considered as the main bread winner of the family were commercial workers and hence they were allowed to gain education in order to enable them secure high paying jobs in the job markets (Fennell & Arnot, 2007, p. 23).

b) Feminist conflict theory

The aspect of gender bias and inequality was exposed in 1960s and early 1970s. This is evidenced by the works of the early makers of sociological theory who were noticeably quiet about gender issues. The conflict theory outlines the areas where conflicts emerged concerning gender issues (Klein, 2007, p. 59). In educational matters, this theory indicates that women are in no way different from men and hence they should be provided with adequate and quality education as it is done to men. The aspect of conflict has brought about gender stratification where women are considered as the weaker sex and hence should not be provided with equal opportunities with men (Arnot, 2011, p. 56). In the current world despite the fact that gender inequality in educational sector is still prevalent in some countries, it is weaker as compared to what it was at the traditional days. In this case, women movements have fought hard to make sure that even girl child is provided with equal educational opportunities just like boys (Tembon, 2008, p. 43).

Gender identity and socialization

Children identify themselves with the roles they are required to perform by their parents. In this case, a girl child will identify her gender with the roles that are played by her mother or as a result of what is learned at school. According to Bailey (2007, p. 16), gender identity denotes the way a person identifies with a gender group or category. Children during their life time identify themselves as men or women (Subrahmanian, 2007, p. 48). At the age of three, children are able to identify their gender and it becomes very difficult to change after that. In this case therefore, at schools children should be taught that in education all students are equal and hence should be provided with equal education (Mirza, 2009, p. 36). In most societies, there is a primary division between gender attributes that are assigned to men and women. In this respect, men identify themselves with what is assigned to them and the same case applies to women (Arnot & Ghaill, 2006, p. 17). This aspect is not common to all societies as some societies feel uncomfortable with the attributes that are associated to their sexes. These societies represent the modern societies where despite the fact that women are associated with the domestic chores, they are in the current world moving to the commercial chores as a result of increasingly attaining education (Leach, 2003, p. 34).

Gender identity means that a person is placed in the category of man or woman through the interaction of the society members. Girls accept that they are girls and are required to conduct themselves even at schools as girls because of their interaction with other members of the society (Pereira, 2007, p. 45). According to Bank (2007, p. 28), the aspect of gender identities and differences is changing as a result of education. This is because at schools all students are treated equally and are taught how to become self reliant irrespective of their gender connotations (Koch & Irby, 2002, p. 5). There are some roles that are carried out by men and others by women and hence they help individuals in identifying themselves with certain gender. It should be noted that despite the fact that gender identity is influenced by a number of factors, there are some problems that are associated with this aspect. MacNaughton (2000, p. 5) clarifies that, in early childhood gender identity brings about major disorders like Gender Identity Disorder.

Socialization is a process of interaction where people interact in the process of getting norms, ideologies, and customs. Through socialization, individuals are provided with the necessary skills and habits that are useful in participating in their own societies (MacNaughton, 2000, p. 5). It is through socialization that women are discriminated against at schools because they are imparted with customs, ideologies, and norms that male students are more powerful than them (Forgasz et al, 2010, p. 67). In the past few decades, women in general have made substantial gains in education because of socialization and interaction. Children are able to learn about the requirements of a society through socialization and hence when they are socialized that gender inequality in schools should not be there, they try as much as possible to fight it (Koch & Irby, 2002, p. 5). The way people behave, act, and think is the final product of socialization in a society. Different people are socialized differently in different societies and therefore in societies that are purely patriarchal, the aspect of gender inequality is heavily prevalent (Arnot & Ghaill, 2006, p. 17). This is because there is male chauvinism where the males believe that they are supposed to be better than females (Leach, 2003, p. 34). This aspect is still present in schools and hence even teachers socialize students differently with male teachers encouraging the concept of gender inequality by encouraging male students to take up hard sciences subjects while female students to take up social sciences subjects (Bank, 2007, p. 28).

It is through socialization that gender roles are communicated to children in a society. According to sociologists and psychologists, the process of categorizing individuals in terms of gender is habitual and social in that individuals are usually unaware of their roles unless they are introduced to them (Subrahmanian, 2007, p. 48). This aspect brings about unequal gender roles in educational sector as students are socialized into different roles by their teachers and parents (Mirza, 2009, p. 36).

Impact of culture and gender in education sector

Gender has a lot of impacts in education as women and girls are usually discriminated against when it comes to provision of education. The concepts of gender are brought about by culture as gender is socially constructed (Lober, 2009, p. 17). On this basis, there are some cultures that highly discriminate against the weaker sex especially in matters relating to education than others. Women in most cultures are considered as weaker than men and hence they should not be equated with men when it comes to provisions of education (Andersen & Tylor, 2007, p. 326). In this case, the concept of culture affects the provision of education to women and girls.

Gender discrimination and biases in classroom teaching and curriculum

In classroom teaching, there are gender biases and discriminations where even teachers believe that boys are more knowledgeable than girls and hence they are picked to explain to the rest of the class on certain subjects like mathematics (Lober, 2009, p. 17). It is universally believed that boys perform better as compared to girls in hard sciences like chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics and hence they are mostly referred to show the others on how a mathematical problem is solved (Andersen & Tylor, 2007, p. 326). There are different teaching methods that are used by teachers in classroom and each method when used appropriately usually benefits the students. As indicated by McCann and Kim (2003, p. 234), boys and girls understand concepts differently at different rates in the classroom and hence it is up on the teacher to make sure that the method or approach that is used to teach students in all encompassing. Most of the hard sciences subjects usually have practical teaching and hence it becomes very hard for girls to understand the practical teachings (Skelton, 2005, p. 18).

When teachers are asked about gender inequality in classrooms they usually respond that they treat all students the same. This statement is composed of two problems bearing in mind that students are diverse in a classroom situation and hence they may have learning issues (Ballantine & Spade, 2007, p. 17). This indicates that by treating all students similarly means that all students even those who have learning difficulties are treated the same and hence they do not have equal chances of learning as some of them will have a better learning experience than their colleagues (Allan, 2011, p. 17). There is a possibility that teachers or tutors usually ignore their unconscious gender discriminations towards their students. These gender biases may have come from their cultural norms hence leading to biases in classrooms (Villaverde, 2008, p. 60). When some students are favored in classroom situations by their teachers because of their gender orientations, they will have a greater chance of having learning experience than their peers (Chafetz, 2006, p. 215).

In most cases, gender biases in classroom occur when teachers make assumptions in matters relating to preferences, behaviors, or abilities of others based on their genders (Ryle, 2011, p. 120). In this case, a teacher may assume that boys are more able to complete a mathematics quiz as compared to his female peers in the same classroom and hence he or she will be more inclined to the boy students. It should be noted that there are strong gender role stereotypes based on femininity and masculinity, students who are biologically unable to meet these stereotypes usually face discriminatory problems with their teachers (Kornblum, 2007, p. 120). For instance, it is widely expected that boys in their natural settings exhibit disorderly conducts, energetic, academic capability, socially uncommunicative, and rational and therefore they are considered as superior to girls in terms of academic performance (Holmes, 2009, p. 47). These expectations usually affect the method that is used in teaching in classroom. This is because boys do not require to be explained a concept in details before they understand it an aspect that is not exhibited by girls. Girls on the other hand are expected to be polite, studious, and possess better social skills and that is why they mostly excel in languages and reading but fail in hard sciences (Wharton, 2005, p. 170). These expectations when used in classroom teaching results in gender biases and discriminations against girls who are considered to perform less in hard sciences subjects. As indicated by Bolich (2007, p. 70), girls who present some boys as polite and disciplined may not be fully understood by their peers and teachers.


Excerpt out of 27 pages


Gender and Education
( Atlantic International University )  (School of Human and Social Studies)
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education, Gender inequality, Feminist theory, Social construction theory, Gender identity, culture and gender, Gender biases, Eco-feminism, Women and leadership
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Tegegn B. Geribo (Author), 2011, Gender and Education , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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