This study explores gender perceptions in a low socio-economic school and how the perceptions affect student subject choices and employment decisions. The researcher is a teacher at the school and drew on observational and background data collected earlier in order to frame the research. During 1992, I pursued an indepth study of a working class school, a study which had the aim of knowing what the students thought of themselves, the school and its locality. This indepth study had the aim of presenting how stereotyping effects the lives of students and their futures.
A year long research project was designed in which I maintained contact with grade 12 pupils, administrators and teachers.
A questionnaire completed by 161 grade 12 students, follow-up interviews with six groups of three grade 12 students and questionnaires completed by staff provided the main data for the study.
Informal observations of students in class and in the social settings proved essential. The compilation of documentary data such as school newsletters, school documents and local papers proved fruitful. Overt investigation of the school was supplemented by consulting the school development plan, policy statements and mission statements.
Analyses of data, in particular the selected extracts of talk from the four hours of interviewing that I conducted showed how the students see males and females as opposites in their gender relations and habits. The practices taken up by girls and boys to deal with their gender-derived restraints that affect the secondary schooling became evident in the interviews. The analyses of data, derived from the questionnaires and interviews reinforced the negative stereotype of the area. What emerges in the talk about future employment of the students, is that gender, class and the subjects studied at school have had major influence on their choice.
Recommendations for the school in relation to gender, the stereotype of the locality of the school, school subjects and career choices of students are drawn from the research. The information provided here can inform teachers, administrators and parents as to ways in which stereotyping can be avoided.