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Education and Gender

2. The Gender Attainment Gap and the “Feminisation” Debate

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In this module, we think about the gender attainment gap and one prominent explanation for it – that education has been “feminised”. We focus on: (i) the nature of the attainment gap, whereby girls have come to perform better than boys in most subjects in recent decades, and concerns about boys’ underachievement it produced; (ii) key features of feminisation arguments, which attribute this disparity to unfair advantaging of girls in schooling environments; (iii) some important critiques of feminisation arguments.


In this course, Dr Sam Shields (Newcastle University) explores the ways in which gender shapes educational experiences and attainment. In the first module, we think about how gender has influenced patterns of schooling historically, with a particular focus on girls’ education in Britain. The second and third modules consider the gender attainment gap which has emerged in recent decades, whereby girls perform better than boys in most subjects, and two key explanations for this – “feminisation” arguments and gender socialisation. In the fourth module, we look at gendered patterns of subject choice, before turning in the final module to think about how gender differences might be shaped and reinforced within schools by the hidden curriculum.


Dr Sam Shields is Lecturer in Education at Newcastle University. She has written on a number of topics within education studies, focusing especially on gendered experiences of education and research methods in educational settings. Her publications include Working Class Female Students’ Experiences of Higher Education: Identities, Choices and Emotions (2021) and Research and Education (2015, co-author).

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APA style

Shields, S. (2021, December 06). Education and Gender - The Gender Attainment Gap and the “Feminisation” Debate [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Shields, S. "Education and Gender – The Gender Attainment Gap and the “Feminisation” Debate." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 06 Dec 2021,

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