Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Education Honours


Faculty of Education

First Advisor

Associate Professor Jennifer Browne


The purpose of this study was to investigate factors contributing to the underrepresentation of girls in the Year 11 Outdoor Education course in a selected government school. Enrolment statistics provided by the Secondary Education Authority indicate a possible gender orientation of the course which is problematic under the Social justice in education: Policy and guidelines for gender equity (Ministry of Education, 1991 ).

In Western Australian schools, enrolments in Outdoor Education have increased steadily since lower school units were introduced in 1987. However, the participation rate has consistently been about two times greater for boys than for girls. Of concern to feminist researchers in education is the way in which the hidden curriculum conveys and reaffirms messages of inequalities between the sexes. Outdoor Education offered an ideal framework within which the assumptions of prevailing cultural ideologies concerned with gender identities and relations could be explored and challenged.

The project is a descriptive-analytical study, utilising mixed-mode methods of research: that is, both quantitative and qualitative data were collected in order to investigate factors affecting the selection, or nonselection, of Year 11 Outdoor Education. The research strategy involved the completion of a questionnaire by (a) all Year 10 Outdoor Education students, (b) other Year 10 students who had selected Year 11 Outdoor Education, and (c) a randomly selected group of Year 10 students who had not participated in or selected Outdoor Education.

The results of the questionnaire were analysed to determine trends, similarities, and differences in the attitudes of girls and boys towards Outdoor Education. The inclusion of questionnaire data from boys allowed the researcher to observe commonalities and note areas where opinions and attitudes of girls and boys contrasted. These contrasting attitudes were of particular interest because they indicated areas where girls differed to boys in their reasons for selecting, or not selecting, Outdoor Education.

Findings from the study indicate that selection, or nonselection, of Year 11 Outdoor Education by girls and boys was influenced by several main factors. The factor which appeared most to perpetuate the underrepresentation of girls in Year 11 Outdoor Education was the permeating effect of the masculine gender orientation of the course. The masculinisation of Outdoor Education: negatively affected many girls' enjoyment of, or potential to enjoy, the course; resulted in many girls perceiving the course as irrelevant to their personal and career ambitions; and led to many girls conceptualising challenge and adventure as being coercive, and therefore not desirable for girls' involvement.

Finally, recommendations based on the findings are made to three key groups: The Ministry of Education; Heads of Department in schools; and Outdoor Education teachers. The suggested strategies encompass both policy changes from Ministerial level down, as well as more fundamental shifts in attitude by outdoor educators and school administrators. Mentoring of female outdoor education teachers, revision of the educational objectives for Outdoor Education courses to reflect a balance of interpersonal skills and technical skills, and provision of opportunities for a variety of learning styles to suit the needs of both girls and boys, are among essential strategies required to achieve social justice in education for girls and boys.