Friday, August 14, 2009

Better female educational results mainly come from their choosing useless subjects to study

Subjects like sociology and psychology. Spare us! I have taught both at major universities so know how useless most of it is. And as for literary studies .... ! So when women finally go into the workforce, they don't get the good jobs a lot of the time

These are great days for female undergraduates, who with their greater numbers are excelling in higher education, leaving their male counterparts in the dust. That's the increasingly common view, at least, leading to calls in some quarters to focus more on male students.

But what if the enrollment totals are obscuring a major equity issue that may not favor women at all? That was the idea behind research presented here Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. The research links women's and men's college majors with earning gaps by gender, after graduation. And even as the earning gaps nationally have declined, the study says, the share of the gap attributable to college major has grown.

The author of the paper, Donna Bobbitt-Zeher, a sociologist at Ohio State University, used the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 and the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, combining data sets to compare men and women who graduated from high school in 1972 and 1992, and to compare their salaries seven years after high school graduation. (Only those employed full time, following a college degree, were compared.)

The good news for women is that during the time period studied, their average salary increased from 78 cents for every male dollar earned to 83 cents. But when Bobbitt-Zeher controlled for various factors, she found that the share of that gap attributable to selection of major had increased. She controlled for a variety of factors that may result in some people, on average, earning more than others: industries that employ them, socioeconomic status, SAT scores, the competitiveness of the colleges students attended, and whether students subsequently earned a graduate degree.

When controlling for all available factors, Bobbitt-Zeher found that the choice of major explained 19 percent of the income gap between college-educated men and women for the high school class of 1999, nearly twice as much of an impact as could be documented for the class that graduated 20 years earlier.

For comparison purposes, Bobbitt-Zeher divided majors into four categories: business; math, natural sciences, and engineering; education; and the social sciences, arts and humanities. Men are more likely than women to major in the first two categories and women more likely than men to major in the latter two. What Bobbitt-Zeher then noticed was that both men and women are increasingly majoring with more women, but that while men are headed toward parity, majors that are more popular with women are becoming increasingly dominated by women.

In the 1970s, men were majoring in programs in which women made up 23 percent of the students, and women were majoring in fields that were 49 percent female. By the 1990s, men were on average majoring in programs that were 45 percent female, while women were majoring in programs that were 60 percent female, and were becoming "feminized," according to the paper.

In her presentation, Bobbitt-Zeher acknowledged that it is not possible to know the extent to which women are making a completely free choice about their majors, or whether there are encouragements (or discouragements) that are sending more women in certain directions and more men in others.

But the paper argues that these patterns -- especially given that choice of major is increasingly responsible for economic differences among men and women -- need more attention. And the paper notes that these findings challenge the idea that women's issues in undergraduate education have somehow all been addressed.

"While general patterns in women’s educational accomplishments are often interpreted as an end point for gender equality -- that gender is no longer an impediment for women in education and/or in society at large -- the findings show that even though women may be advantaged in some areas of education and have reduced gender differences in other schooling areas, education still contributes in a meaningful way to social disadvantage for women. Indeed, it contributes more than it did in the past. Of particular concern is the importance of gender segregation in fields of study, which is shown here to increasingly contribute to the gender income gap."

After her talk, Bobbitt-Zeher said that one difficulty of analyzing these issues is that "there's a lot going on here." She noted that efforts by many in higher education to recruit more female students into science programs should help, but she said that these efforts may also need a push by, for example, increasing efforts to hire more women as faculty members in these departments. But she also noted the "complexity" of the situation, and suggested that promoting economic equity for men and women may require changes in attitudes across the board. "As women go into men's majors, that's part of it, but men need to go into other majors, too, and as women go into some majors, men sometimes don't want those majors anymore," she said.


British class consciousness is still overpowering for most

Teachers 'prevent' comprehensive pupils from applying to Oxford and Cambridge

Bright pupils from comprehensives are being put off applying to Oxbridge because of fears over "elitism", according to researchers for the Sutton Trust. Teachers often promote the view that Oxford and Cambridge are "not for the likes of us", it was claimed. The Sutton Trust charity said that pupils from state schools needed better guidance to help them apply to leading universities.

Last month, Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, said more needed to be done to widen access to higher education. More than four in 10 students currently admitted to Oxford and Cambridge are from independent schools, even though they educate just seven per cent of children in the United Kingdom.

The Government is now considering introducing new guidance urging universities to give pupils from poor families a two-grade "head start" in the admissions process. But the Sutton Trust suggested that schools - not universities - were often to blame. Dr Lee Elliot Major, the charity's research director, said teachers often confused excellence with elitism.

"What we've found is that independent school pupils with similar grades to state school pupils are far more likely to apply to leading research universities," he said. "One of our concerns is that there is a confusion between excellence and elitism in many state schools - that often the prestigious universities are perceived to be 'not for the likes of us'."

The Sutton Trust is due to publish research later this week which will demand an overhaul of careers advice in schools. Around half the guidance pupils currently received in state schools was poor, Dr Elliot Major said. "We're also concerned about teachers - that half of state school pupils, even if they had the brightest pupils in their class, they wouldn't advise them to consider Oxbridge," he said.


Labour's 1.3m words of advice for British schools: Volume of annual guidance swamps teachers

Heads were swamped with nearly 1.3million words of Government guidance last year - one and a half times as many as in the Bible. They were sent more than 250 documents including a 'simplification plan' detailing how officials had reduced bureaucracy. It ran to 90 pages. If all the 3,982 pages of guidance emailed to schools between April 2008 and April 2009 were printed, the stack of paper would be 16inches thick.

Other information included a document on 'reducing data burdens', as well as advice on what to look for when buying a musical instrument and a guide to the EU member states.

The stream of paperwork was revealed by the Conservatives, who analysed documents sent in a fortnightly email from the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Tory schools spokesman Michael Gove accused ministers of inundating schools with rules and guidance instead of letting teachers get on with their jobs. 'Instead of giving teachers the powers they need over discipline or fixing the devaluation of the exam system, [Schools Secretary] Ed Balls is swamping schools with such a tide of paper that it is obvious heads cannot read more than a fraction,' Mr Gove said. 'We will give teachers much more freedom, but we will make them more accountable to parents instead of bureaucrats.'

The guidance notes run to 1,269,000 words. This compares with 788,000 in the King James Bible and 885,000 in the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Several of the missives cover data collection, while a guide for school governors published in April lists 37 policies schools are legally required to draw up, including rules on target-setting, community cohesion, accessibility and collective worship.

John Dunford, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: 'Unless over-regulation is reduced schools will continue to sink under its weight. 'Heads are forced to make a judgment as to what they can implement and what they can't but the inspection system assumes it all should have been implemented.'

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said it was not Government policy to email full documents to schools, and that hard copies were sent only in 'exceptional circumstances'. She added: 'We make no apology for alerting schools to the information they need to deal with important issues like child protection, bullying and race equality.'


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