The gender gap in educational success - Results of a quantitative study in Switzerland
Department of Sociology of Education University of Bern Bern, Switzerland
Project "Faule Jungs" School of Teacher Education, University of Applied Sciences Bern, Bern
The gender gap in school performance and educational attainment is highly considered in the public discourse. Before the educational expansion that began in the 1960s, girls achieved lower educational levels than boys. Girls benefited much from the educational expansion in Europe. In some countries (e.g. Germany, Switzerland), girls are now more likely than boys to transit to upper secondary schools and show better performances than boys in some subjects and overall results.
Attempting to explain this gender gap, we employ a theoretical framework that consists of elements of general theories on motivation and school achievement, as well as approaches on gender role stereotypes and social integration. Following Cornelissen et al. (2003), only boys who inherit traditional gender roles and who devalue gender neutral or female attitudes and behaviours will have problems in school. The traditional image of male identity which includes roles of the dominant, the go-getter or even the deviant is least compatible to the contemporary school. Other pedagogic approaches highlight the different learning behaviour: Weinert and Helmke (1997) diagnose a "lazybones syndrom" regarding boys. Boys more often show lower effort and have a lower sense of duty than girls.
Our analyses will be based on quantitative data that was gathered in the project on "Lazy boys and ambitous girls" (University of Berne/School of Teacher Education Bern). 800 Swiss school students at the age of 14 have been interviewed using a standardised questionnaire.
Preliminary results indicate that girls and boys differ in their school marks less than expected. However, educational success is influenced by gender role orientations of boys and girls. Another expected finding is that boys have more traditional gender role attitudes than girls. This applies in particular to boys from a low-education-background. Girls rather prefer values of prosociality which also support their integration into school and therefore lead to a higher educational success. Girls are also more future-oriented than boys which seems to be an additional reason for their motivation to perform well at school.