Gender, achievement and place: Femininities and masculinities in a rural area

Year: 2012

Author: Öhrn, Elisabet, Gustafsson, Jan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper reports from one school in an ongoing ethnographic study of gender and achievement in Swedish upper secondary schools. The study takes as a starting point gender differences in achievement and the proposed dissociation between hegemonic young masculinities and school-work in previous research, and emphasises that these relations need to be analysed in local context. Thus, there is a need to explore in greater detail the discourses on gender and educational achievement in various teaching settings as well as the material and social conditions in their local sites and labour markets. This accords with theories emphasising local/regional variations in gender regimes and dominant masculinities/femininities. The study set out to research nine schools in different socio-economic areas with different levels of achievement. The paper draws on classroom observations and interviews from one of the researched sites, a secondary school in a rural de-populated area, to explore achievement, future aspirations and gender. We focus on this kind of area, which is typically less researched than urban ones, in the hope of adding to the knowledge about place for relations of achievement and gender. The results indicate that conceptions about 'real' knowledge as compared to 'school knowledge' drew on relations and positions in the local labour market. Such conceptions appeared to help boys' positioning as gifted, despite their lower marks compared to girls. They also were vital for boys' criticism towards schooling for not providing useful knowledge. The local school seemed to further ambivalent discourses on academic achievement; on the one hand stressing the importance of high marks and on the other playing it down in favour of other achievements and qualities.