Gender differences in pre-teen schools

allie shep
Posted October 17, 2016 from United Kingdom

IF ONLY children's bodies were all the same until puberty! Every child attending school prior to the age of 11 or 12 would not only be the same but be TREATED the same.

As it is, we still ascribe differences to children based on their physical appearances. A boy might become a surgeon, a member of Parliament or a big businessman; a girl a nurse, a councillor or a secretary.

And, apologies, but a tIny item informs not only the way we perceive the person, but the things we encourage it to do, the items we encourage it to like or dislike, the people we encourage it to copy, and the way we encourage it to react to life.

Right from birth.

And all through junior (elementary) school.

Boys are encouraged to have fun playing football and to get dirty in the mud, girls are encouraged to learn a homely 'trade' like needlework and to stay clean in the gym. If this sounds old-fashioned, it is, and things ARE changing, but it is still practiced at many junior and pre-teen schools in old, new and "developing" countries.

And why aren't more girls persuaded to pursue science subjects to high school?

Or, for that matter, why aren't boys persuaded to pursue improtsnt subjects like "domestic science" or housekeeping? They need to!

My neice, aged 7, recently went on a nature ramble. Not only was she warned not to play around "like the boys do", but when she needed to use a toilet, she was prevented from following the boys not by a woman concerned for her safety and privacy, but by a man who told her that she, well his exact words were that she was "missing something".

How MYSTERIOUS, HURTFUL and MISOGYNISTIC to a 7-year-old girl could he be?

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Comments 7

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Sister Zeph
Oct 17, 2016
Oct 17, 2016

We all face gender discrimination from birth to death , we have to suffer as a women no matter in which age we are, but if we will not raise our voice as you are raising it will keep hurting us as women ,  Thank you for writing this piece my dear

allie shep
Oct 17, 2016
Oct 17, 2016

Thank you very much for your comment - I just hope that, worldwide, women are suffering a little bit less every day.

Natasha L
Oct 22, 2016
Oct 22, 2016

Hello Allie -

You bring up some important points in your discussion of gender differences amoung young children, where society ascribes differences to children based on their physical appearances.

I am interested in your opinion on what can be done in your country to encourage or persuade girls to pursue science subjects or boys to pursue important subjects like "domestic science" or housekeeping. I agree with you that this would contribute to establishing equality in education for boys & girls.  In recent years, have you seen any initiatives being launched in Britain to encourage educators & teachers to give students the motivation and opportunity to take subjects that are not the traditional ones ascribed to their gender?  We need this progress in our world!

Natasha

allie shep
Oct 24, 2016
Oct 24, 2016

Thank you Natasha. It is a genuine source of anger that from the moment of its innocent appearance in this world, a child is treated one way or another solely on the presence or not of a tiny item - we're really saying that having it or "missing" it determines that child's future status immediately.

(And so often people want to know the sex beforehand so that they can "prepare" the baby's life.)

Possible ways of bettering the science situation?

1. I am personally a believer in single-sex education. I know that isn't always practical (tho it should be in Western countries) and isn't a popular choice because many people believe that the classroom should represent a microcosm of the world outside. But girls have always done better when not competing directly with boys (or, more likely, being put off their stride by boys). The latter are likely to make up 75% or more of STEM sets, and so directly or indirectly bully girls into feeling either that they shouldn't be there or that it is 'unfeminine', and won't help their passage into the world as young women.

2. Role models. Only 1 British woman has ever won the Nobel prize for Physics (I forget her name!), which is hardly suggesting to girls that it is a "normal" occupation. Worse than that it is open to comments from boys (which I have heard) saying that her winning it was a freak occurrence never to be repeated.

To have more girls taking science subjects to A level and beyond itself creates role models for forthcoming generations. And that is much more likely to happen in all-girl schools. In fact, where girls take the plunge and compete in sciences (particularly chemistry and biology), they are usually out-performing boys.

I read something recently which said that in 2013 (I think) girls who did science subjects outperformed boys everywhere in the world except the UK. the US, and Canada. Men apparently pointed to those countries as having higher standards of living than elsewhere (which is not consistently true anyway), but if that is the case we should be asking why countries even consider they have a high standard of living if they can't obtain higher pass rates for girls!

I am sorry to ramble so much Natasha (it's not often that I get a chance), and as to your main point (do I know of any particular schemes in place?), I'm afraid not, although I have heard that schools like Roedean (which I know is hardly typical of secondary schools!) have laid particular emphasis on recent years on their pupils taking "applied science", with very high success rates. Girls in the U.K. who take that are considerably out-performing boys. (Though I understand that it is not a popular subject with either sex!).

Again thanks for letting me rant!

Allie x

Oct 24, 2016
Oct 24, 2016
This comment has been removed by the commenter or a moderator.
Natasha L
Oct 25, 2016
Oct 25, 2016

Hi Allie -

I don't think you were "rambling" or "ranting".  World Pulse is a safe place for women to express their opinions, ideas, emotions and ideas though the stories they share.

I appreciate your thoughtful responses.  And, although it is not universally popular or practical, I agree with you that all-girls or all-boys classrooms may make a difference to girls' learning and success, especially in "traditionally" male subjects like science.  

Here's a quote to support that perspective: "A thoughtful review of the evidence accumulated over the past 30 years suggests that coeducation may not work as well as expected. In fact, the best evidence now suggests that coeducational settings actually reinforce gender stereotypes, whereas single-sex classrooms break down gender stereotypes. Girls in single-sex educational settings are more likely to take classes in math, science, and information technology. Boys in single-sex schools are more likely to pursue interests in art, music, drama, and foreign languages. Both girls and boys have more freedom to explore their own interests and abilities in single-gender classrooms."

I found that quote on this  (U.S.) website of single-sex public education:http://www.singlesexschools.org/

...There are probably just as many websites that discuss the disadvantages of single-sex education.....

Natasha  

allie shep
Oct 27, 2016
Oct 27, 2016

Thank u for reply and attachment Natasha. Yes I agree this is a safe place (I hope) to  say what we think. 

I attended a co-ed until the "sixth form" as they used to call it here. I was amazed at how easier it was then to be myself without boys in the classroom. I feel sad for girls who are pressurised by boys and men into certain classes (as I'm sure I was at lower levels).

An all-girls school is psyched up for females entering life with classes, sports, and facilities for US. Of course girls can be nasty and spiteful (I'm sure we all were!) but there is never a feeling of needing to comply with what boys and men want you to be. And that's something we all have to fight all our lives to avoid!

Allie x