Feminist issues in education: developing a theory of class and gender relations

Arnot, Madeleine M. (1989). Feminist issues in education: developing a theory of class and gender relations. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000dfb7


The twelve publications submitted for this thesis constitute a group of essays completed between 1979 and 1989 on related feminist issues in education. Each publication contributes to the overall project of developing a theory of class and gender relations in education.

Three stages in the construction of this theory are identified. These are:

(a) a critical evaluation of theories concerning the social and cultural reproduction of class relations in terms of their applicability to the study of gender relations.

(b) the construction of a feminist theory of gender that accounts for, among other things, the historical and class specific nature of gender relations in education.

(c) an analysis of contemporary policy-making at central, local and institutional levels in relation to the promotion of equal opportunities for both sexes.

It is suggested that explanations of the relationship between education, the economy, the family and the state based upon male class relations cannot adequately account for the patterns of female education. A range of new concepts more appropriate for the study of gender relations is developed. These include a theory of male hegemony and the concept of gender code involving processes of recontextualisation and different modes of transmission of gender relations through schooling. These concepts are applied to an analysis of the structure and content of the secondary school curriculum, family and school cultures, coeducation and boys' education.

The approach developed here is contrasted with other feminist perspectives on gender and education and consideration is given to the ways in which these perspectives have influenced educational policy and practice. The approaches to sex equality of central government are compared with those underlying teacher initiatives in this area. Finally a strategy is offered for the promotion of sex equality through school-based in-service courses focused on the personal and professional development of teachers.

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