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Education and Gender

4. Gender and Subject Choice

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In this module, we think about gendered patterns in subject choice at GCSE and A level. We focus particularly on: (i) Becky Francis’ work on students’ recognition of the role of gender in subject choice; (ii) key areas of gender imbalance, notably boys’ greater uptake of Physics and Maths and girls’ preference for Humanities subjects like English; (iii) the potential role of teachers’ expectations in reinforcing these differences; (iv) some evidence which counters these patterns, especially regarding girls’ uptake of STEM-based vocational subjects.


In this course, Dr Sam Shields (Newcastle University) explores the ways in which gender shapes educational experiences and attainment. In the first module, we think about how gender has influenced patterns of schooling historically, with a particular focus on girls’ education in Britain. The second and third modules consider the gender attainment gap which has emerged in recent decades, whereby girls perform better than boys in most subjects, and two key explanations for this – “feminisation” arguments and gender socialisation. In the fourth module, we look at gendered patterns of subject choice, before turning in the final module to think about how gender differences might be shaped and reinforced within schools by the hidden curriculum.


Dr Sam Shields is Lecturer in Education at Newcastle University. She has written on a number of topics within education studies, focusing especially on gendered experiences of education and research methods in educational settings. Her publications include Working Class Female Students’ Experiences of Higher Education: Identities, Choices and Emotions (2021) and Research and Education (2015, co-author).

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Shields, S. (2021, December 06). Education and Gender - Gender and Subject Choice [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Shields, S. "Education and Gender – Gender and Subject Choice." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 06 Dec 2021,

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