Attitudes to girls in schools have not changed since the 1960s

June 9th, 2009 - 5:29 pm ICT by ANI  

London, June 9 (ANI): Even though women these days are more likely to go to university, a study led by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Britain has found that gender attitudes in schools have not changed since the 1960s.

The equalities watchdog says that girls are still far more likely to be encouraged to do hairdressing, catering and childcare courses, while boys go on to do mechanics and plumbing.

The commission says that even though the women’s rights movement has encouraged women to compete harder and get good degrees, girls from working-class backgrounds have been left behind.

Trevor Phillips, the chair of the commission, said that attitudes in some schools were stuck in the mid-20th century.

For the study, 1,000 14- to 18-year-olds were interviewed.

The research showed that white working-class girls were four times as likely as white middle-class girls to work in childcare.

“The majority of young women who come from working-class backgrounds believe they will fail. They believe the best they can do is to be a hairdresser or work in one of the three Cs: catering, childcare or cleaning. These are proper careers and I don’t want to do them down. The problem is we have a society where young girls who aren’t from well-off professional families can’t see themselves as successful in anything but a limited range of jobs,” the Guardian quoted Phillips as saying.

“Within education and careers services, the expectations for these girls are pretty low. Even well-meaning teachers and careers advisers are saying … ‘you could be a very good hairdresser’. They should be saying, ‘why don’t you want to be a doctor or lawyer?’ It’s wrong if girls are told they can only do certain things,” Phillips added.

The study also revealed that four times as many boys as girls thought that they would become engineers, with similar percentages of boys over girls choosing building, architecture, trade and IT careers.

It further revealed that white middle-class boys were twice as likely as white working-class boys to become a teacher or police officer.

“Despite girls’ success at GCSE, three-quarters of women still end up in the five Cs of employment - cleaning, catering, caring, cashiering and clerical. Explanations for this trend include the stereotyping of subject choices at schools … there is some evidence that teachers and others in education may also contribute towards these trends, consciously or unconsciously encouraging boys and girls to pursue ‘gender-appropriate’ subjects,” the report says.

The report further states that about 50 per cent of the girls from a working-class background reported a profound fear of failure, which was seriously affecting their chances at school and work.

The report, called Staying On, recommended improving careers advice, increasing the educational maintenance allowance for pupils from poorer homes in education between 16 and 19 to more than the current 30 pounds a week, and improving work experience options.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said: “All young people should have access to good-quality, impartial information, advice and guidance that is tailored to their individual needs.” (ANI)

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