Marcel Helbig

Gender specific change of educational success

A study of the school pathways of girls and boys at general educational schools for the birth cohorts 1944–1986 in Germany


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All over the world, we observe enormous changes in the field of education. While in the 1960s and 1970s boys were much more successful in attaining educational certificates compared to girls, this relationship has turned upside down in recent years. Even though there are already some studies that document this change and analyze the reasons for it, they solely concentrate on the certificate acquired and neglect the processes leading to this acquisition. In this article I therefore analyze the gender specific change of obtaining the German university entry certificate (Abitur) by including the schooling process as a whole. With data from the life course studies ALWA and NEPS I examine the gender specific change of the transition to upper secondary school (Gymnasium), the ascent to Gymnasium, the descent from Gymnasium and the attainment of the Abitur inside and outside of Gymnasium for the birth cohorts 1944 to 1986. Overall, the results indicate that, when examining the schooling process as a whole, a diversified picture of gender differences evolves. Only by an integrated examination of the single stages of the schooling process it becomes possible to better understand how and why the gender specific change of obtaining the Abitur has occurred. This has some important implications for further research.

Gender differences; School pathways; Change; National Educational Panel Study