ERG SES C 07, Parallel Session C 07
Research on inequality in school has a long tradition within sociology and educational science. Especially gender differences in academic achievement have been debated for decades. Feminist research in the 1970s and early 1980s argued that girls were being marginalized in school, and as a result had poor results in mathematics and science, and to a lesser degree progressed to higher education. This inequality was seen as grounded in systematic discrimination from male classmates, teachers and the school system itself. From the mid 1990s the discourse on gender inequality in school shifted from a girl’s point of view to a boys’. Boys were found to underperform in most subjects in school compared to girls, and a growing concern for the male role in school was being expressed in research and media.
In the last decades both boys and girls have increased their academic achievement, girls more than boys. Girls have closed the gender gap in mathematics and science. Resent research find that boys’ lower achievement is concentrated to specific subjects in school, such as reading/writing and language subjects. Changes in the cultural context in school have raised new questions in the debate of educational differences. Minority students on average are found to achieve lower marks compared to majority students, and gender differences in academic achievement are found to be smaller for minority students compared to the majority.
Since the gender gap in achievement is well established, researchers have been trying to explain why boys do not perform as well as girls in school. It has become an important research topic because achievement is connected to labour marked outcomes, and a way to identify possible violations of equal opportunities in education. There remains a lack of information about what causes these differences. One hypothesis is that girls work harder and take school more seriously than boys. This discussion relates to a ‘boys will be boys’ discourse, were gender roles are seen as essential for boys and girls effort on schoolwork. Working hard in school is in this perspective seen as “feminine”, while ‘having a laugh’ and effortlessness is seen as masculine.
The current study was conducted to examine how effort in school contributes to explain the gender differences in academic achievement for students with majority and minority background. Few studies have combined a gender perspective with ethnic background when looking at differences in school achievement. The ones that do either do not differentiate between different ethnic groups, and/or they threat gender and ethnicity separately in the analyses. This study compares majority students with Norwegian background with students with background from Pakistan. This minority group is interesting as a comparison group, firstly because it is the largest non-western minority group in Norway, and secondly because immigrants from Pakistan are found to have one of the most gender segregated labour forces compared to other immigrant groups in Norway.
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