boys are generally more at risk of leaving school early than girls. Furthermore, next to this statistical difference, there are various indications that gender dynamics intervene between both individual as well as institutional explanations for ESL. On the individual level, gendered attitudes are likely to have explanative power for education-related outcomes as well as for ESL. The prevalence of ‘macho’ attitudes among boys gives a good, yet partial, explanation for the boys’ overall lower school performance (Friedman & Chase-Landsdale, 2002; Archer et al., 2005). Especially for low-motivated pupils, there is a significant gap between girls’ and boys’ performances (Crul & Schneider, 2009; Van de gaer et al., 2003), increasing the drop-out risk for boys. The stronger gender-stereotypical negative peer group pressure amongst boys also affects their engagement with learning (Warrington & Younger, 2005). On the institutional level, the core institutions studied in our research design (the education system, the community and the labour market) are characterized by differential gender patterns and roles. Because of the gender-segregated nature of the low-skilled segment of the labour market, of men’s overrepresentation in low-skilled professions, it is to be expected that the attractiveness of the labour market will differ for men and women. Related to this, labour market related discrimination issues can also diverge between men and women. Furthermore with regard to the family context, if parents adhere traditional gender perceptions the chance increases that low-performing girls drop out of school (Duquet et al., 2006). Moreover, for girls, especially those belonging to an ethnic or religious minority, the ban on wearing the headscarf and pregnancy or child-rising issues are likely to occur as gender-specific explanations for ESL (Brekke & Mastekaasa, 2008).
In order to fully disentangle the way gender impacts on ESL, we will take gender into account at several stages in the project. During the development of the research framework and questions, we will formulate gender-sensitive hypotheses. In the design of (qualitative) interview guidelines and (quantitative) questionnaires, the gendered realities regarding education, family and labour will be kept in mind. In the selection of research participants, we will pursue a gender-balance. To diminish gender-related barriers during the fieldwork, we seek to compose a gender-balanced group of field researchers. Taking gender-differential explanations for ESL into account is not merely a method to increase the validity of the results, but also necessary for the targeted dissemination of the project results. Due to the horizontal gender-segregation of the low-skilled segments of the labour market and the vocational and technical tracks in secondary education, it might be more appropriate and effective to develop gender-differential models of good practice for both schools and employers.