Female Power in Education: Is it a Reversal of Gender Gap?

Bouchaib Benzehaf


Education today is increasingly being feminized with girls accounting for the large majority of the student population at all levels. This feminization is happening not only in terms of number of girls but also in terms of performance. The present paper reports on a comparative study that looked into the differences between girls’ achievements and boys’ achievements in high education. More specifically, the paper explores gender differences in written linguistic proficiency by analyzing a sample of high school students’ pieces of writing in English. The research sample consisted of 130 high school students in the city of El Jadida, 59 males and 71 females. Using Hunt’s T-units as a method of language measurement, the paper outlines gender differences in the sample in terms of accuracy, fluency and complexity. Results showed that girls significantly outperformed boys in different aspects of writing, thereby suggesting a reversal of gender inequality. However, care must be taken so that these differences which favor girls are not misinterpreted in such a way as to reproduce traditional gender inequalities in educational institutions (for instance, some people are advancing the idea that boys are differently, not deficiently, literate). In light of the results, the paper ends with recommendations for justice to be done to female students as well as for the adoption of best classroom management practices that maximise all students’ achievements.


gender, gender reversal, achievement, written competence

Full Text:



Beauvoir, S. de (1973). The second sex. New York: Vintage Books.

Browne, A. (1994). The content of writing in the early years: Issues of gender. Reading, 28(3), 2‐8.

Cahill, L. (2005). His brain, her brain. Scientific American 292(5), 40-47.

Cohen, M. (1998). ‘A habit of healthy idleness’: Boys’ underachievement in historical perspective. In D. Epstein, J. Elwood, V. Hey, & J. Maw (Eds.), Failing boys? Issues in gender and achievement (pp. 19‐34). Milton Keynes, UK: Open University Press.

Dee, T. S. (2005). Teachers and the gender gaps in student achievement. Working Paper #11660, National Bureau of Economic Research. www.nber.org/papers/w11660.

Ellis, R. (2003). The study of second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, R. (2008). Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fergusson, D. M. & Horwood, L.J. (1997). Gender differences in educational achievement in a New Zealand birth cohort. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 32(1), 83-96.

Geisler, G. & Pardiwalla, M. (2010). Socialization patterns and boys’ underperformance in Seychellois schools. Journal Statistique Africain, 11, 62-84.

Halpern, D.F. (2000). Sex differences in cognitive abilities (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Hunt, K. W. (1966). Recent measures in syntactic development. Elementary English, 43, 732-39.

Hyde, J. S. (2005). The Gender Similarities Hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60(6), 581-592.

Hyde, J., Lindberg, S.M., Linn, M.C., Ellis, A.B., & Williams, C.C. (2008). Gender similarities characterize math performance. Science, 321, 494-495.

Jones, S. & Myhill, D. (2007). Discourses of difference? Examining gender differences in linguistic characteristics of writing. Canadian Journal of Education, 30(2), 456‐482.

Kanaris, A. (1999). Gendered journeys: Children’s writing and the construction of gender. Language and Education, 13(4), 254‐268.

Kenney-Benson, G. A., Pomerantz, E. M., Ryan, A. M., & Patrick, H. (2006). Sex differences in math performance: The role of children’s approach to schoolwork. Developmental Psychology, 42, 11–26.

Lips, H. M. (1997). Sex & Gender: An Introduction (3rd ed.). Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield.

Millard, E. (1997). Differently literate: Boys, girls and the schooling of literacy. London, UK: Falmer.

Ortega, L. (2003). Syntactic complexity measures and their relationship to L2 proficiency: A research synthesis of college-level L2 writing. Applied Linguistics, 24, 492-518.

Reynolds, M. R., Scheiber, C., Hajovsky, D. B., Schwartz, B., & Kaufman, A. S. (2015). Is writing an exception to the gender similarities hypothesis? Journal of Genetic Psychology, 176(4), 211-234.

Skehan, P. (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Van Houtte, M. (2004). Why boys achieve less at school than girls: The difference between boys’ and girls’ academic culture. Educational Studies, 30(2), 159-173.

Voyer, D. & Voyer, D. S. (2014). Gender differences in scholastic achievement: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 140(4), 1174–1204.

Weiner, G., Arnot, M. & David, M. (1997). Is the future female? Female success, male disadvantage and changing gender patterns in education. In A. Halsey, P. Brown, H. Lauder & A. Stuart-Wells (Eds), Education, culture, economy and society (pp. 620-630). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Willingham, W. W. & Cole, N.S. (1997). Gender and fair assessment. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21462/jeltl.v2i2.65


  • There are currently no refbacks.

JELTL (Journal of English Language Teaching and Linguistics); Web: www.jeltl.org; Email:journal.eltl@gmail.com

Creative Commons License
JELTL by http://www.jeltl.org is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Indexed and Abstracted BY: