Boys into Modern Languages: an investigation of the discrepancy in attitudes and performance between boys and girls in modern languages
It is widely acknowledged that girls outperform boys across the curriculum in the GCSE examinations which are taken at the end of five years' compulsory secondary education. However, the gap in performance between boys and girls in modern languages is very marked and may suggest a need to reassess patterns of teaching and learning. This paper examines the differences in attitudes between boys and girls in modern languages after five years' study in an attempt to give some explanation for the considerable discrepancy in performance. Although previous research findings relating to boys' and girls' attitudes to their studies were confirmed, the significance of teacher personality and classroom practices emerged clearly from pupil interviews with both sexes. The article recognises the changes in the nature of the modern languages curriculum brought about by the introduction of GCSE and the on-going implementation of the National Curriculum, but points to the limitations and frustrations posed by these new agendas. Drawing extensively on pupil interviews, factors are highlighted which significantly affect pupils' perspectives and attitudes towards modern languages, and tentative suggestions are made which could help to improve the performance of both boys and girls in this traditionally 'female' subject.
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