Women and education

There was a time when women were in society were not widely educated, especially within higher education. A woman’s place was traditionally in the home and young girls were often married and producing children by their mid-teens. Today female participation in education is very successful, with girls consistently outperforming boys in GCSE and A level examinations.

Exam results

In recent years girls have outperformed boys in GCSE and A level results. One of the reasons given for this is the fact that the courses young people are taking at school are increasingly based around coursework, and do not rely heavily on examinations as a method of determining grades. Girls are generally considered to be better at coursework than boys are which is why a bias towards coursework in schools is believed to be one of the main reasons that girls outperform boys in exam results. Boys prefer to learn things at the end of a course whilst girls perform more consistently over a two year period. However, coursework is on its way out of the curriculum at many schools and because of this boys are starting to close the gap between themselves and girls.

Single sex schools

One of the oldest arguments for keeping single sex schools is that they improve girls academic performance, as there are no boys to cause distractions. Arguably the same could be said of teaching in boys’ schools where boys can focus their energies on learning rather than trying to impress girls. Some people may argue that single sex schooling doesn’t allow girls to become socially comfortable with boys and leaves them less able to deal with the social complexities of a mixed environment. Many single sex schools are also grammar schools which adds an extra dimension to the debate surrounding single sex education because many people believe that grammar schools should not exist. However single sex school results are generally better than mixed school results which would support the idea that girls and boys learn more effectively when they are separated.

Universities

Women are attending Universities in increasing numbers which is giving them more influence both in higher education and the world of work, going on to be well-respected dentists or doctors. The issues regarding women that affect other large organizations do not escape the university system, where the majority of senior academic posts are still occupied by men. Despite this inequality the number of female professors has increased over the past two decades. There are a handful of womens’ higher education institutions in the UK today, all of which are at Cambridge University. Girton College at Cambridge University was the first higher education institution formed exclusively for women in 1869. Universities have produced many of the Britain and the worlds’ most prominent female academics, politicians and athletes and they continue to do so.

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