Gender Influence on Educational Process
By Kvara Guledani
Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University
Student of the Faculty of Humanitarian Sciences
Institute of Cultural Sciences
The dualism between man and woman is the fundamental fact of our existence and the attitudes towards this issue are diverse in different cultures. The differentiation of humankind in males and females is conditioned not only by biology and genetics, but also by those socially learned roles, functions, norms, behavioral patterns and expectations that are associated with maleness and femaleness in the concrete society. That is the reason for the clear distinction between the biological sex and the gender - socio-cultural meaning of the sex - outlined in various scientific literatures.
Only by mastering own gender identity a human being, who is determined by birth with biological gender, can obtain the sense of being a man or a woman. Formation process of a child into a girl or a boy proceeds in the socialization, which is the process of learning the life styles typical for her or his groups. Existence of the certain expectations and evaluations towards a new born child are determined by gender. By strengthening the gender corresponding actions and behaviors the adults give a child the sense of being a girl or a boy. One of the most important socialization agents together with the family are the school and the peers. Very often the teachers and generally the environment at schools unconsciously support the gender formation and reproduction (7:54).
The main aim of this essay is to examine an influence of stereotypes existing at schools and in educational system on formation of gender roles. In addition, I will consider the differences between the female and male pupils at schools and educational centers regarding their academic performance, their attitudes, expectations and typical behavioral patterns and try to analyze the biological or social reasons and bases for these differences. Besides, I will try to provide the analyses of current situation in Georgia regarding this matter.
At a glance, the problem of gender stratification in the modern educational system does not exist; girls and boys have equal opportunities for the education. The issue of gender equality in the educational system is particularly underlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that everyone has the right to education without distinction of any kind, such as race, social origin or sex. At least for the considerable part of the world’s population a problem of women’s access to education does not exist anymore. On elementary and secondary educational levels the female pupils and students have better academic performance than the male and this tendency also continues at the higher educational levels. But despite of these optimistic facts the certain stereotypes with gender content and expectations do exist in the educational system that still influence the pupils’ and students’ academic performances.
Mainly the clearly distinguished traditional masculine and feminine subjects reveal the existing gender inequality at schools and very often a gender determines the pupils’ academic performance. As a rule, boys perform better than girls in mathematics, physics, informatics and engineering while girls are better in literature, languages, history and art. Later, this fact serves as the base for selecting the further course of education: the boys continue their studies mostly in natural and technical sciences, and the girls choose to study humanitarian, pedagogical and art fields. As for the social sciences, the tendency of equalized data is noticeable. The pattern of educational system of above mentioned type serves as a base for the further gender distribution of labor. The men well qualified in economics, engineering and informational technologies get employed at well-paid and high status jobs while the women with humanitarian education occupy only the low income and no prestigious vacancies existing in spheres of service and education (7:52-54).
There are two reasons explaining the existing differences in the educational system. As a rule, when considering and analyzing almost every gender issue, the two kinds of approaches are used: differences are explained either by biology or by upbringing. The biological argument is based on an assumption that the genetic heritage from the human ancestors determines the differentiated specializations of brains of men and women. Considering that men’s main activity was hunting, the specialization of right hemisphere occurred as a result of the filogenetical development. The right hemisphere is responsible for space-visual and mathematic skills. In case of women the specialization of the left hemisphere occurred; this is responsible for the verbal and perceptual skills. The specialization of a woman’s brain is correspondent to her role as a mother (7:31-38; 8:30). These arguments are used by supporters of the biological approach to explain the better academic performances of boys in mathematics, geometrics and technical subjects and of girls in languages and other humanitarian subjects.
According to the second approach, the gender differences in educational are due to the external processes such are the socialization and the upbringing; and especially the socialization that takes place at schools. A school and a kindergarten are particularly important places; in this environment a child at the first time meets and recognizes his/her peers and while playing and relating to them uses the classroom as a “laboratory” for learning the gender roles, the masculinity and femininity. In this new atmosphere they are predisposed to establish relations with only the children of the same gender. In addition, school completely changes the child’s previous life and replaces home-concentrated life with school-concentrated one (8:35). Besides the relationships with peers, the second factor that forms the gender identity is the differentiated attitudes and expectations of teachers towards female and male children. In this case as well, the teachers’ expectations coincide with the borders of gender division of subjects mentioned previously. As an example, if a girl gets a high credit in one of the masculine subjects, this achievement of hers will be attributed not to her talent which is completely normal to have, but to her hard work and diligence; whereas, the failure of a boy in the very same subject will be explained with the following stereotypical phrase – “He is talented but lazy”. Also, the encouragement and punishment techniques for boys and girls are differentiated at school. The majority of teachers still have the opinion that the main function of woman is a family and children, and this is of course reflected in their expectations and demands. And the pupils accept these attitudes as norm and try to adapt to it. This can be better sensed among the male teachers while they are somehow united with their male students by uniform masculine “public culture” (7:58-60).
The experimental research exists which proves a high level of impact of teachers’ estimate on the actual results of the students. In 1968 Rosenthal and Jakobs measured the students’ intellect by a standard IQ test in one of the colleges in the U.S. The researchers informed the teachers about the randomly selected 20 students that they’ll have a great intellectual leap in the nearest future. As a result of the re-examination eight months later exactly those 20 students showed a considerable intellectual increase compared to other students; and this very result was the teachers’ estimations’ affect (7:60-61). This means that the intellectual development of a student can be as well influenced by teachers’ estimates and expectations she/he has regarding this student’s gender.
Besides the teachers’ attitudes and estimations one additional point in teachers and pupils interactions exist which plays a significant role in the formation process of gendered relations. At the lessons teachers give differentiated attention to their male and female pupils and spend their time disproportionally while interacting with them. In this case again the boys are in a more advantageous position, but this pattern can’t be explained solely by teachers’ attitudes. It’s well known that the boys are much more disruptive and aggressive than the girls are; thus the teachers spend more time and energy to control and keep them quiet. Meanwhile the girls are sitting quietly and work on their tasks. It is important to mention one more detail - the pattern of how pupils are sitting in the classroom is also gender dependent. The girls have tendency to sit more in the front or centre of the classroom, closer to the teacher and the boys are mostly occupying margins and periphery of the room. This pattern of sitting requires even more effort of teachers to control the male pupils (7:61-63).
Besides the existing interpersonal interactions at schools, the formation of gender stereotypes is significantly encouraged by the text books and other reading materials used in the learning process. As a rule the text books are usually concentrated on men’s experiences and interests, while women are marginalized and less visible or they are presented in such a traditional stereotypical way that it even enforces the existing prejudices. In such a way the female students are not provided with the appropriate role models of successful women (7:55-57). Unfortunately, their female teachers as well cannot fit into this role model considering their low-status positions and low salaries. Despite of the fact that the female teachers outnumber male teachers at schools, due to various reasons (pregnancy, child care) they still occupy lower-status positions than their male colleagues (7: 55). Thus, the female pupils think that it’s impossible to have successful academic career without loosing the traditional feminine status; and as a result, very often they decide to study those subjects and courses that can be useful for their families in the future.
Does the situation at Georgian schools and centers of higher education correspond to the analyses described above? Unfortunately, no research or study on interdependence of gender and education is available in Georgia in order to have a complete picture of the situation. So, to have a rough overview of the situation I have decided to conduct a research on the bases of Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University’s first-year students’ lists 2005 to 2008. Of course, the data is not sufficient for strong conclusions as only one university and only the higher education level is considered; this analysis cannot provide us with the complete picture of the current situation in the country.
- Table No.1. Students’ distribution according gender at six faculties
Table No.1 shows that the results are consentient to the gendered pattern of subject choice. According to the data during the four year period the percentage of male students at the faculty of humanities never exceeded 20 percent, whereas the percentage of female students was always higher than 80 percent. The data is similar for the faculties of medicine, social and political sciences, although according to the data of last two years the slight increase in number of male students at these faculties is noticeable. Situation is opposite in case of faculties of exact and natural Sciences, where the percentage of male students exceeds the numbers given for the female students; the percentage of male students has increased by 13-17 percent in years 2007 - 2008. The data is comparably equal for the faculties of law, economics and business (2, 3 , 4 ,5).
- Table No.2. General data for the first-year students at I. Javakhishvili Tbilisi State Universitys in 2005-2008
Indeed, it is impossible to make any significant conclusions based on this data but the pattern of gender based choice of faculties can be noticed. It can be stated that the gender based problem of access to education does not exist; furthermore, we can notice the female students’ advantage compared to male students; according to the data (2005-2009) the percentage of female students that continued their studies at Tbilisi State University is 60-65 percent, whereas the percentage of male students equals 35-40 percent.
We can say that the described situation portrays whole country as well, excluding the situation of existing national minorities. Although in case of minorities the combination of wide range of problems do exist (which often are not directly related to gender), the Muslim Azerbaijanis alongside with problems related with their ethnic identity have to face the difficulties of gender inequality too. Very often based on family’s decision the girls abandon the secondary schools to say nothing about higher education; as the tradition is still preserved, the parents force the girls at age 12-13 to quit the schools and get married (6).
Thus, we can conclude that the gender can have a considerable influence on person’s whole life. On the one hand it forms the gendered educational patterns and on the other hand these gendered educational patterns serve as one of the mechanisms for maintaining the gender roles and statuses. So, we get a so-called closed circle and several strategies are outlined to break through it: the same-sex schools, development of curriculums motivating the girls, informing the pupils and teachers about gender equality issues, etc. It is a fact that nowadays the level of individual’s career success is influenced by gender, because all of us get the gendered education which is in accordance with expectations and attitudes of “important others”.
1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/UDHR_Translations/geo.pdf
2. The draft list of the students (according to the points earned) enrolled in the accredited Georgian higher education centers through the united national exams 2008 - http://www.naec.ge/files/954_2008-charicxul-abiturientta-sia.pdf
3. The final list of the students (according to the family names) enrolled in the accredited Georgian higher education centers through the united national exams 2007 - http://www.naec.ge/files/695_admissions_2007_Name.pdf
4. Do the Azeri girls need education? - http://www.ginsc.net/main.php?option=view_article&mode=0&article=8247&lang=ge
5. Faculties and majors until 001-0101-0505 - http://www.naec.ge/files/314_f-spec1.pdf
6. List of the enrolled students according the faculties and majors - http://www.naec.ge/files/312_umaglesi-f.pdf
7. Burr, Vivian. Gender and Social Psychology. Routledge.1999
8. Ember , Carol R., Ember Melvin. eds. Encyclopedia of sex and gender: men and women in world's cultures. Volume II . Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publisher. 2003
Gender stratification – the unequal distribution of wealth and privilege between the two sexes that corresponds to their different positions in the social hierarchy
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