Access to education alone is not sufficient to fulfill girls' human right to education.
Girls and women also may face discrimination in the education system.
- schools, special programmes and training programmes open only to boys and men;
- higher paid, higher status teaching positions open only to male educators;
- testing methods biased in favour of boys (e.g., questions that reflect the interests and vocabulary of most boys).
In most parts of the world, female teachers predominate at the primary level, yet women are generally underrepresented in higher status, decision-making posts in education. especially at universišties. Not only do female students need positive role models, but female teachers may also be better able to address the needs of female students.
School programmes can be one of the primary vehicles for reinforcing gender role stereotyping, the expected roles of men and women that society imposes from infancy onward. School books often portray boys as big, brave, active, adventurous and clever people who take action as leaders, explorers and inventors; girls, on the other hand, are small, modest, sensitive, cautious and beautiful, playing traditional reproductive and care-giving roles The stereotypes of boys in some countries encourage boys to study the sciences, while the stereotypes of girls make them fearful of subjects, like math and science, that they perceive as being too difficult for them, thus reinforcing girls' sense of inadequacy.
However, properly designed school programmes could reverse the sex-role stereotyping and combat discrimination against girls and women. The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action explicitly recognizes the importance of combating gender role stereotyping:
"The creation of an educational and social environšment...where educational resources promote non-stereotyped images of women and men would be effective in the elimination of the causes of discrimination against women and inequalities between women and men" (Beijing Platform forAction. ch. 4, B.69). But many teachers are not themselves conscious of the discrimination that women as a group face, and because they do not perceive it they are not able to challenge damaging stereotypes in educational material, career options available to girls, and school environments that may discriminate.
From early childhood girls are socialized to accept the ideology of male supremacy that makes them prey to a range of discriminatory practices. Thus women and girls are not only ill-equipped to identify or confront the injustices to which they are subjected, but lacking any alternative models of behaviour, they actually reinforce and pass on to their children cultural values that are harmful to women. For this reason women need powerful social, cultural and economic support to develop a sense of self-worth and encouragement to transmit this sense of women's value to the succeeding generation. Exercise ll: Gender role stereotyping Objective: To examine gender mle stereotyping in education and the community Time: 45 minutes Materials: Sample textbooks
I. Role- Play:
Read aloud the following scenario:
You have a small daughter who is just beginning to learn how to read in school. When you are helping her with her school work you notice that her book is about a boy and his sister. One story tells about the boy's hike in the mountains and his discovery of a secret treasure. The next tells about the girl's trip to her grandmother's house in the village where she learns how to cook.
Ask the participants to do the following.
- Discuss what this story tells us about male and female behaviour.
- Role-play how they would discuss these stories with their daughters.
- Role-play how they would discuss these stories with the teacher or school principal.
Ask participants to remember some of their elementary school teachers, texts and activities. What ideas about gender roles did they reflect?
In advance, obtain or ask women to bring in sample textbooks used in local schools.
Ask the participants to review them and answer these questions:
- Identify the male and female roles depicted in the textbooks. Could they be changed to present more choices for male and female behaviour? If so, how?
- Count the number of pictures of males and females in any section. Compare the ways male and females are depicted.
- If one of the books is an anthology of stories or poems, compare the number of male and female authors. The number of male or female protagonists.
- Especially note the math and science texts. Are girls pictured at all? Are they actively engaged or watching boys perform experiments or manipulate equipment? Note the word problems: Does the subject matter include material familiar to girls as well as boys?
Ask these questions about gender stereotyping:
- Were you aware of stereotyping in textbooks when you were at school?
- How can education be used to combat gender role stereotyping?
- What can women do to make these changes at both the local and national levels?