Teaching Gender Equality

Schools tend to perpetuate gender stereotypes. Some of the teaching material tends to be rife with it. Examples of this stereotyping can be easily found in the scenarios they describe or illustrate – boys play sports, girls cook food, engineers are men, nurses are women etc.

This gendered approach is unhealthy at best and toxic at worst. It creates a culture of discrimination & violence that results in every kind of abuse, including sexual abuse. There is an urgent need for teachers to move away from these long-term prejudices.

Gender Equality is not just a lesson plan but a core value that the teacher must put in practice.

1. The first step for teachers is to develop gender neutral language. Teachers must consciously use ‘he’ and she, ‘her’ and ‘him’, and alternate between male and female examples.

2. Both textbook and audio-visual material must be checked to see that stereotypes like male doctors and female nurses are not reproduced. We do not want children to ask whether women can indeed drive buses; we have to create a normal atmosphere that does not build on those stereotypes that we have ourselves grown up with.

3. Teachers should not call only the mother of the child for discussions on the children. They must make efforts to involve both fathers and mothers and not request to speak to the mother alone.

4. In the classroom an effort must be made to integrate boys and girls and not separate them in the seating arrangements. Studies in classroom behavior have shown that boys are far more active in the classroom than girls and they usually have no hesitation in initiating a discussion. Teachers may have to call on the girls consciously to participate and take leadership roles in classroom discussions. In the organization of group discussions, there must be a mix of the genders rather than segregating them.

5. As the children grow into the pubescent age, teachers must make a conscious effort to impart sex education to both boys and girls.While doing anatomy and biology, it is always useful to treat the human body clinically and remove any embarrassment for either sex by using relevant and humorous illustrations.

6. Sexual harassment of girls begins extremely early and any attempt to blame the girls for being harassed must be curtailed. Severe punishments for harassment which cannot be written off as “eve-teasing” must be instituted very early. Girls should be enabled to complain and teachers must intervene quickly on receiving the complaints.

7. Both boys and girls need encouragement equally in all sports and extra curricular activities. Girls must not be told that they should not swim or exercise when they have their periods.

8. Girls should not be asked to eat less than the boys or go home early because the roads are unsafe. Instead, they should be taught how to take care of themselves and develop confidence.

9. It is imperative for teachers to give examples of role models that are not gender stereotypes. For example, a girl who expresses an interest in becoming a pilot must be encouraged with stories of those who have been successful. Similarly, if a boy shows inclination toward craft he should not be labeled a sissy either by his teachers or peers.

10. Girls are often taught to excel alongside boys but ultimately they are told that family must take precedence over career. Girls are always told that they must become good wives and mothers but boys are almost never told to be good husbands and fathers. All children must be told to be good partners and parents in the future. It is the responsibility of teachers to show how achieving success in one’s career is as important as taking care of the family for both boys and girls.

Sample lesson plan: An interesting group discussion topic can be about domestic chores and how children help their parents in certain tasks. Any hint of gender stereotyping may be highlighted & replaced.

(source: Teacher Plus)