33 SES 02 A, Gender Equality in Education
Gendered identity and norms interplay with other social categories, as ethnicity, age and class. What is valued and recognised as ways of being a girl and women in one social group differs from another. In this study, we focus on how girls in three different tracks of vocational education act/perform gender as a part of their vocational, civic and private identity - in relation to peers and teachers. The research was carried out in Swedish upper secondary education, where the pupils, after comprehensive K-9, chose between twelve Vocational education and training programmes (VETP) alongside six Higher education preparatory programmes (HEPP). On a general level, the pupils applying for the VET programmes have working class background (parents with low educational level, level of income and living standard compared to students applying for HEPP) (Broady and Börjesson 2006). The VET programmes are strongly gendered, some programmes being either boy- or girl-dominated by tradition, peer-pressure and/or other fractors (Fehring and Herring 2013; Lundahl 2011), and gendered-marked vocational programmes have gendered practices (Connell 2006; Smyth and Steinmetz 2015). We argue that exploring gender in VET is of particular importance because of the strong gender divide. This is not only the case in Sweden, but rather a general phenomenon throughout Europe. The division, and ‘keeping apart’, of women and men is an important principle of upholding gendered categories, which is a prerequisite for the logic of men as norm (compare Hirdman 1988). The problem investigated is expected to generate results that can further the understanding of gender and vocational education more generally.
In her anthropological study of groups in the Children and recreation programme and Social science programme, Ambjörnsson (2004) shows how norms and ideals of femininity is performed differently by VETP girls and HEPP girls. As Ambjörnsson, we are influenced by the works by Skeggs (2004; 2000) on how working class girls and women perform gendered subjectivities that differs from valued feminitities within middle class. We consider gender to be reified through social performances (compare Butler 2006 ) and thus as socially constructed identities. Also, in line with Butler (2006  we acknowledge that the constant practices of performing gender opens for possibilities to change and challenge norms: subversive performativity. Our ambition is to explore how ‘girls’ - norms and ideals of femininity - are constructed in different contexts, i.e. different VET programmes. This means that we are comparing the performance of gender within the larger group of pupils enrolled in VET, i.e. a group of pupils that on an aggregated level have a working-class background, not, as Ambjörnsson (2004), pupils in VETP with HEPP, which have a larger share of pupils with middle class background. The three VET-programmes selected are gendered in terms of ratio of girls/boys enrolled and reflects a gendered divided labour market: Health and Care (HC) programme (81% girls), Restaurant management (RM) programme (58% girls) and Vehicle and transport (VT) programme (14% girls). The question of how girls act/perform gender as a part of their vocational, civic and private identity - in relation to peers and teachers in different VET contexts - are largely unexplored. The aim of this study is thus to contribute with knowledge of the processes of being and becoming a girl and a young women in the specific context of vocational education and training. RQ: How do the pupils perform feminitity? What ways of performing femininity is recognised, encouraged and valued by others?, and the other way around, what ways of performing femininity is not recognised, but opposed and disqualified?
We base the study on ethnographic data from the programmes Health and care, Restaurant management and Vehicle and transport, in total six groups. The study is a part of an ongoing research project which purpose is to generate knowledge concerning the extent and nature of learning processes that can be characterized as civic education in vocational subjects and to what extent and why these vary between program and school context, (for publications see Ledman, Rosvall and Nylund, 2017; Nylund, Rosvall and Ledman, 2017). Four researchers has adopted what is referred to as a collective ethnography (Gordon et al., 2006) in this case meant that two researchers followed two VET classes each and a pair of researchers followed two VET classes. Data consists of classroom observations (HC33/RM24/VT27 number of field days), interviews with students (HC25/RM28/VT28), teachers (HC4/RM2/VT4) and heads (HC1/RM1/VT2) and collecting of teaching material. Data was analysed by identifying positive, negative or neutral (non-) observed reactions towards the ways the girls in the study acted. These reactions could be directed to the self (pupils comment of own acts) or to others (pupils commenting/reacting on other pupils, teachers commenting/reacting on pupils). Each researcher has read individual fieldwork narratives and interview transcripts where after excerpts has been chosen and discussed by the research. The groups of girls on the different programmes was compared to find what seems to be general for the groups, regardless of the context of the specific VET programme, and what seems to be specific in relation to the codes and practices of the programme.
In the early stage of analysing the data, it seems as the different contexts of the programmes makes the way the girls perform femininities more or less visible and that different ways of being feminine gets recognition in the groups. One example is that in the male coded vocational context of the VT femininities as being matriculate, careful, and ‘soft’ are advocated as an asset in the future profession, characteristics traditionally ascribed women as natural. Both teachers and the girls themselves explain that ‘the employers want to hire girls’ because of economic motives. Simultaneously, there are tendencies to describe the girls as too ‘hard’, explicit and forward, making the teachers and their male peers uneasy. The girls in HC act in a female coded context. It seems as if their performances of femininities does not need to be addressed in a discourse of naming and defining their gendered behaviour, maybe because it meets the norms within the field of practice. Still, the girls in HC ‘do’ explicitly femininities in the classroom, as do the girls in RM. The RM girls typically, when the day is starting, create a space that allows ‘private’, as opposed to ‘public’. They share make-up in-between one another, they comb and brace each other’s hair, and give one another massage. The girls in VT programme perform the transformation of doing their hair and putting on make-up before entering school. On general level, in a male context, as VT programme, the performance of femininities becomes explicit, as it seems to be a need to name and mention different acts of femininity. In a female coded context, as HC, the performance of femininities becomes less of a contrast, whereas in the RM context discourses concerning femininities are less explicit compared to VT, but more explicit than in HC.
Ambjörnsson, F. (2004). I en klass för sig: genus, klass och sexualitet bland gymnasietjejer. Diss. Stockholm: Univ., 2004. Stockholm. Broady, D., and M. Börjesson. 2006. “En social karta över gymnasieskolan [A social map of the upper secondary school].” Ord Och Bild 3–4: 90–99. Butler, J. (2006). Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge. Connell, R. W. 2006. “Glass Ceilings or Gendered Institutions? Mapping the Gender Regimes of Public Sector Worksites.” Public Administration Review 66 (6): 837–849.10.1111/puar.2006.66.issue-6 Fehring, H., and K. Herring. 2013. “The Working Lives Project: A Window into Australian Education and Workforce Participation.” Journal of Education and Work 26 (5): 494–513. doi:10.1080/13639080.2012.693585. Gordon, T., Hynninen, P., Lahelma, E., Metso, T., Palmu, T., & Tolonen, T. (2006). Collective ethnography, joint experience and individual pathways. Nordisk pedagogik, 26, 3-15. Hirdman, Y., 1988. ”Genussystemet – teoretiska reflexioner kring kvinnors sociala underordning”. Maktutredningens Rapport 23. Ledman, K., Rosvall, P.-Å., & Nylund, M. (2017). Gendered distribution of ‘knowledge required for empowerment’ in Swedish vocational education curricula? Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 1-22. doi:10.1080/13636820.2017.1394358 Lundahl, L. 2011. “Swedish Upper Secondary Education: Policy and Organisational Context.” In Young People’s Influence and Democratic Education: Ethnographic Studies in Upper Secondary Schools, edited by E. Öhrn, L. Lundahl, and D. Beach, 13–27. London: Tufnell press. Nylund, M., Rosvall, P.-Å., & Ledman, K. (2017). The vocational–academic divide in neoliberal upper secondary curricula: the Swedish case. Journal of Education Policy, 32(6), 788-808. doi:10.1080/02680939.2017.1318455 Skeggs, B. (2000). Att bli respektabel: konstruktioner av klass och kön. Göteborg: Daidalos. Skeggs, B. (2004). Class, self, culture. London: Routledge. Smyth, E., and S. Steinmetz. 2015. “Vocational Education and Gender Segregation across Europe.” In Gender Segregation in Vocational Education, edited by C. Imdorf, K. Hegna and L. Reisel, 53–81. Emerald: Bingley.
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