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Céline Guerin



Céline Guerin


celin guerin education expert


This study was inspired by the book “Why gender matters”, by Leonard Sax, principal speaker at the EASSE Congress, 2010.

Questionnaire applied to 600 students attending 6 schools (private/public; privileged/underprivileged) from Paris, Marseilles and Grenoble, in order to assure a diversity of socio-economic levels.

Slide 2: The survey

A survey carried out with 21 educators showed that 100% of them think that there is a maturity gap between girls and boys. 71% said that the gap is larger than one year; 33% said that the gap is two years or more. Moreover, coeducation is seen as evidence.

In France, it is difficult to obtain the opinion of students in regard to coeducation, given that they know no other and the majority can’t imagine that school could be any different.

On the other hand, in questioning students it is possible to better understand how girls and boys live and work together in school; their manner of knowing the school and of living together; their relation with teachers, according to their gender and their tastes in regard to different subjects – principally French and mathematics.
A first series of questions had to do with the way that girls and boys experienced the school, the hypothesis being that as with the primary school, they mixed very little.

A second series of questions treated the relations of girls and boys with their male teachers, on the one hand, and with their female teachers on the other. The hypothesis was that the nature of the relation would vary according not only to the gender of the student, but that of the teacher as well.
A third series of questions dealt with academic subjects, the objective being to see whether girls and boys reacted in the same way to the way that French and mathematics are taught.

Slide 3: Relations among boys and girls doing tasks and at laisure

If you had an assignment in French/binomial mathematics, which would you choose? (green: a boy, brown: a girl, red: no answer)? Girls and boys mix very little during their tasks, especially in the 6th year. Mixing increases as the students grow, but the girls are more determined than the boys and tend to stay together. The subject has little impact, even in the case of the girls mixing more with the boys in the case of mathematics...

Among the boys, one finds more non-responses than opening up toward the girls, which increases with age, especially in French.
– For you, at school or with friends, are you more with girls (if the respondent is a girl) or more with boys (if the respondent is a boy)? (dark red, red: often; frequently; dark and light blue: at times, never).

During the daily life of the school or outside the school, boys and girls mix very little. Even in this case, it is the girls who tend to stay together.

– When you go out with friends, do you happen to meet only with girls (in the case of a girl) or only with boys (in the case of a boy) before going to the meeting place?
This question brings up the need, which is more important and earlier among girls than among boys, to meet with young people of the same sex: when adolescents organize their leisure time, they organize non-mixed meetings more than meeting all together. This need is expressed by 70% of girls and 43% of boys, beginning in the 5th year. This refers to 63% of the boys in the 3rd year.

Slide 4: The relation of students with their male and female teachers

One should emphasize that:
- female teachers are over represented compared to male teachers, especially in the 6th year, where male teachers are practically absent, and in the 5th year, where they are rarely more than two in eight.

The students believe that their teachers:
– are more interested in the progress of each student (69% for female teachers and 55% for male teachers )
– are more interested in the well-being of their students (51.5% for female teachers and 42% for male teachers )
– listen with more attention to what I say (55% for female teachers and 47% for male teachers)
– will give them additional help if necessary (55% for female teachers and 48% for male teachers).

In addition, 52% of students get along well with their male teachers and 46% with their female teachers.

Slide 5: Relation of girls/boys with their female teachers/ male teachers

It appears clear that the students in general perceive the interest more of female than of male teachers. But this perception is not in the same proportion for boys and girls.

Over all, the boys perceive as much interest on the part of the male teachers as of the female teachers, which is not the case for the girls (74% perceive interest on the part of female teachers and 51% on the part of male teachers ).

In the case of male teachers, twice as many boys than girls perceive that male teachers are more frequently interested in their progress (the proportion is nearly three times greater in the 6th year and the 3rd year).

In the case of female teachers, both boys and girls think that they are frequently interested in their progress, except in the 3rd year (15% of boys and 29% of girls).

Relation of male teachers with their students
In general, students get along better with male teachers than with female teachers, but even in this field not in the same proportions.
The girls get along a bit better, but the boys are nearly three times more likely to get along much better with male teachers than with female teachers .

When the results are controlled for class level, significant differences appear: girls have the perception that their female teachers give them more attention than do their male teachers throughout their studies and most particularly in the 3rd year (in which girls have the impression that their male teachers don’t give them much attention).

In contrast, boys perceive much more attention on the part of their female teachers in the 6th year. Later, their is an inversion of the trend seen in the 5th year, arriving at an impression equivalent to that of the 3rd year. 

Slide 6: ways of receiving instruction

More boys than girls have the impression that they are not completely understood by their male teachers, especially in the 6th/5th years: (11% of the boys and 2% of the girls). The boys become bored in school, very frequently, twice as much as the girls, and it is more difficult for boys than for girls to remain seated during the entire day. The distance increases with age, reaching 67% of boys and 39% of girls in the 3rd year. Boys in the 3rd year have more the sensation that their efforts are not recognized (43% of boys and 22% of girls) and that they don’t have the right to do whatever they wish (43% of boys and 28% of girls).

The girls pay much more attention than to do the boys in the 6th/5th years, to what others think of them (35% of boys and 60% of girls in the 5th year).

A large majority (at least three-quarters) of students think that school isn’t easier for a boy or for a girl, but among those who do think that this is the case, almost all think that school is easier for girls.

Slide 7: French

The results as a whole show that attraction to reading and reflecting about emotions are clearly much stronger among girls than among boys. This contrast increases over time in school. From the 5th year one notes an increasing contrast of tastes between boys and girls: boys do not like to describe their emotions, while girls enjoy doing so more. The boys are clearly more numerous than the girls, particularly in the 3rd year, who are not interested in textbook reading during class. 70% of boys have no interest in describing the emotions of characters in their reading. At the end of the course, girls are three times more likely than boys to like to read, and four times more likely to feel at ease in describing their emotions.

Slide 8: mathematics

More boys than girls like mathematics and are interested in math problems. The distance is clearly largest in the 6th year.

– In school, you very much like mathematics: 39% of boys and 27% of girls (for 56% of boys and 34% of girls, in the 6th year).
– Math problems interest you a great deal: for 20% of boys and 8% of girls (for 27% of boys and 11% of girls in the 6th year).
In contrast to what happens in French, there is a tendency to be closer together with age.

Slide 9: Conclusion

Boys and girls feel the need to meet, but mix little with one another inside and outside the school. We can verify this need among adults, who reserve for themselves spaces separate from the other sex in their leisure: women to window shop and men to play soccer.

The teacher/student relation is marked by the gender of each. We may be led to think that the over feminization of teachers represents a difficulty for boys, who do not recognize female codes. The teaching modalities strongly favor girls in French and less so the boys in mathematics.

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