The Societal construction of "boys' underachievement" in educational policies: a cross-national comparison

Other title(s): The Societal construction of "boys' underachievement" in educational policies: a cross-national comparison

Author(s): Moreau, Marie Pierre

Date: 2011

Pages: p. 161-180

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Through the example of what is now known in a large part of the Anglo-saxon world as the boys' underachievement debate, this paper explores the construction of gender issues, which underpins educational policies in England and France. It argues that the formation of particular questions as 'policy issues' bears limited relation to what happens on the ground, yet is contingent on societal contexts. For example, while England and France share similar patterns in terms of the differential achievement of boys and girls, in the former the boys' underachievement debate is prominent, but in the latter it is non-existent. This supports the view that the emergence of the boys' underachievement debate is not related to a 'grounded reality'. Rather, the debate appears embedded in the discursive construction of gender and education and, more generally, of notions of citizenship and equality/difference. These findings provide a strong case in favour of a reflexive approach to equality matters in educational policy making. They also suggest that the analysis of what is constructed as a key issue in policy circles represents a rich terrain for feminist analysis, and they highlight that national frameworks continue to structure the thinking on equality issues.

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