Whilst coeducation was established in the early 20th century, it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that large number of girls could access the different educational levels (primary, secondary, and higher education). Even then, education institutions were viewed as responsible for promoting gender stereotypes through the curriculum content, pedagogical practices, and institutionalised gendered practices (promotions of staff, the gendered nature of teaching subjects, the feminisation of primary teachers, and so on).
Since the 1970s, following a concerted programme of intervention by many governments across Europe, much has changed. Now girls are on average more successful than boys with the same social background, despite strong national disparities. Indeed, there is now interest in those groups of male students who significantly under-perform, and how this under-performance is linked to anti-school identities. On the other hand, gender stereotypes still have direct and indirect effects both on the educational offer and on careers and social positions available when female students complete their studies. Studies also suggest that student/teacher relations differ according to the gender of the latter in terms of teaching interactions and outcome or performance expectations.
Gender inequalities continue to remain with the educational staff, both in teaching and management posts, and thus maintain gender-based hierarchical gaps for equal competences.
Finally research emphasises that the recognition of gender still proves a challenge in most educational systems, and that important gendered work, such as caring for others, is not sufficiently recognised or valued.
What does the gender gap mean in the 21st century education?
How can we advance equality between men and women in education at a time when coeducation is challenged in some States?
Is the pursuit of gender equality the sole objective of democratic school systems or should they also further the respect of all sexual identities?
Can we develop systems where care toward others is fostered, valued and rewarded?