2022-03-17 GENERAL HOUSE

Gender Equality in Schools: A Challenge for Teachers

Gender equality entails equal rights to dignity, respect, fairness, and opportunities for everyone including access to leadership in all the domains of public and private life. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Gender inequality persists almost everywhere due to the role and place which society assigns to women. Despite progress in social equality in the advanced countries, this situation has not changed. For this reason, the United Nations (UN) decided to adopt gender equality as one of its sustainable development goals (SDGs) to empower all women and girls. To do this, the UN targets the elimination of all forms of discrimination, violence, and exploitation of women to foster equal rights to economic resources, property ownership, financial services for all, as well as enforcelegislation for gender equality.  

The mission in the schools

The UN relies on governments, non-governmental and civil societies, organizations, and social services including schools to defend and advance the cause of gender equality. Unfortunately, schools continue to reinforce gender disparity through the hidden curriculum as teachers socialize students into stereotypical gender roles. Gender bias is implied when teachers sort out students, learning materials, activities and tasks based on gender. Teachers affirm their gender bias every time theytaunt boys during school physical activities for behaving like girls.

Gender bias is equally evident in the underrepresentation of girls in textbooks. Most storybooks describe the world in which boys and men are active, resistant, and assertive while girls and women are not. Teachers reinforce this by giving more attention to boys than to girls during classroom interaction. Classroom observation research has revealed that while female teachers always give more attention to boys, male teachers only increase their attention to girls when the latter get older.

Teachers are generally unaware of their gender bias and of the subtle messages of gender disparity embedded in educational materials, situations, and activities. Unless teachers become aware of the biased messages that they unintentionally give to the students every day, and until they are provided with the methods and resources necessary to eliminate gender-biases in their classrooms, girls will continue to receive less attention in education.

Secondly, teachers have a great opportunity to model gender equality and prepare children for a changing world where traditional beliefs about male and female roles will not exist. There is no doubt that the gender-neutral language that students hear in classrooms and the diverse stories about women and men in non-stereotyped roles that they read will affect their future interests, activities, and careers. While teachers create a safe and secure learning environment which is free of violence and discrimination and provide gender-sensitive education, governments could develop non-discriminatory curricula, facilitate teacher education, and make sure sanitation facilities are adequate. Similarly, schools could encourage teachers to follow professional norms regarding appropriate disciplinary practices and provide unbiased instruction. Unless femininity or masculinity are acknowledged and accepted as specific gifts of God, their mutual enrichment cannot be fully appreciated.


Brother Francis Lukong – Secretariat of Solidarity


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