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Educational Attainment and Inequality

3. Gender

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In this module, we think about the “gender gap” in attainment, focusing on: (i) the historical emergence of this gap over the last forty years, wherein girls throughout the stages of schooling perform around 5-10% better than boys; (ii) the wider societal causes of this, particularly Sue Sharp’s argument that girls’ changing expectations and ambitions explains their better attainment; (iii) arguments that schooling has been “feminised” to favour girls over boys; (iv) the role of male and female subcultural values; (v) critiques of the “feminisation” position.


In this course, Dr Matthew Cole (University of Birmingham) explores patterns of differential educational attainment along class, gender, and ethnic lines. In the first module, we consider three sets of factors shaping unequal attainment – cultural, material, and factors within schools. In the second module, we think about differences in attainment between working- and middle-class students, and how these are shaped by material and cultural forces and relationships within schools. The third module considers the “gender gap” in attainment, focusing especially on arguments that schooling has been “feminised” to favour girls and critiques of this position. In the final module, we look at the more complex ethnic patterns of achievement and explore their causes.


Matthew Cole is Teaching Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Birmingham. He is a historian of modern Britain with a particular interest in twentieth century constitutional and party politics, and local history.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Cole, M. (2021, November 11). Educational Attainment and Inequality - Gender [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Cole, Matthew. "Educational Attainment and Inequality – Gender." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 11 Nov 2021,

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