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While girls are focusing more on their futures and are prepared to study
hard, boys are still adopting anti-work 'laddish' attitudes which hold back
their educational development, according to new ESRC-funded research.

FOR RELEASE: 13 MARCH 2001 AT 00:01 ET US
Economic & Social Research Council

Girls adapt to the new world of work while boys still lag behind

While girls are focusing more on their futures and are prepared to study
hard, boys are still adopting anti-work 'laddish' attitudes which hold back
their educational development, according to new ESRC-funded research.

The research, from the University of Greenwich's School of Post Compulsory
Education and Training, involved interviews with 14-year-old to 16-year-old
students at three London comprehensive schools. During the research,
interviews were conducted with 50 boys and 50 girls, and 12 different
classes were observed.

"Girls have recognised that gender discrimination exists in the workplace
and are motivated to perform well at school to equip themselves with the
qualifications they deem necessary for accessing a good job and for
competing effectively with men," says Dr Becky Francis, the author of the
report.

Boys also recognise the need for good qualifications but feel that they will
be ostracised by their friends or ridiculed if they are seen to be too
academic.

"Boys continue to adopt loud and disruptive behaviour to gain status among
their peers at the expense of their academic achievement," says Dr Francis.

The researchers found that:

*girls' view of femininity has changed markedly since the 1980s, making them
more ambitious about future careers

*boys' view of masculine behaviour has tended to remain the same

*'laddish' behaviour still tends to dominate the classroom and impedes all
pupils' learning

*teachers often endorse boys' 'laddish' behaviour even though it may lead to
underachievement

Many boys adopted homophobic, misogynist and violent attitudes to assert
their masculinity and appear 'normal'. This behaviour required disciplinary
attention from teachers and reduced the time teachers spent teaching the
rest of the class. In spite of this, 'laddish' behaviour and the need to
'have a laugh' meant that these boys often provided entertainment for the
class as a whole. Many girls and some teachers seemed to be amused by such
behaviour and even found such boys appealing or attractive. But the
behaviour which made the boys a social success in the classroom had a
negative effect on their own, and others', academic achievements.

"Girls seem to have become far more ambitious and see their future work in
terms of a career rather a stop-gap before marriage or a source of income
after marriage," says Dr Francis. "They are also prepared to work hard to
get the qualifications to succeed in a career," she adds. "In contrast, many
boys appear to be trapped in a way of behaving which gets them short term
attention in the classroom, but which does not equip them for the workplace
and fails them in the long run."

For more information, contact Dr Becky Francis. She is now at the University
of North London. Tel: 0207-753-5055 Or, Lilian El-Doufani or Lesley Lilley
in ESRC External Relations. Tel: 01793-413032