Gender Bias

Gender Bias in Schooling: Textbook, Curriculum, Teachers’ Attitude etc.

Gender Inequalities in Schooling

In this article we will learn about Gender Inequalities in Schooling: Organisation of Schooling, Gender bias in textbook, Curricular Choice, Teachers’ Attitude, Classroom Interaction, Peer Culture etc. 

Gender bias in School

 UNESCO’s gender equality framework defines gender inequality in education in terms of four dimensions, equality in access, equality in learning process, equality of educational outcomes and equality of external results. Gender equality in education means bringing gender equality to, within and through education. The goal is to achieve gender equality such that, women and men have equal conditions, treatment and opportunities for realizing their full potential, human rights and dignity and for contributing to (and benefiting from) economic, social, cultural and political development.

Despite increase in educational enrolment, rigid gender norms dictating appropriate roles and behaviours contribute to the persistence of gender inequalities. Since education systems for embedded in the broader social control, they reflected the inequalities that exists in society.

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 The structure and content of schooling textbook, curricular choices, sex distribution of teachers and administrators, teacher attitudes and behaviours, classroom and discipline practices, presence of violence etc. reflect discriminatory and harmful social norms about appropriate roles and opportunities for boys and girls.

It is a generally accepted fact that children who do not attend school are largely from poor households. The majority of such non-attendees are girls. There are basically two reasons for this-

i. The cost that parents have to incur in sending their child to school.

ii. The poorer households may depend upon the labour of their children in order to supplement household incomes.

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 Studies have identified several critical factors which contribute to girls’ education mainly. They may be categorized into out-of-school factors and in-school factors. Out-of-school factors may be poor economic condition of the family, socio-cultural considerations operating within the community, low education level of the parents and girls own attitudes towards education. In-school factors concerned the physical environment of a school, curriculum and instruction, lack of female teachers, supervision and management.

Gender bias in Textbook

 Gender bias in textbook is a low profile education issue, given the number of children who still have low access to schooling. It is an important, near universal, remarkably uniform, quite persistent but virtually invisible obstacle on the road to gender equality in ducation. It is a significant issue because textbooks occupy 80% of classroom time and it may contribute to lowering girls achievement in weak schools. It has been found worldwide in varying degree and it involves nearly identical patterns of under-representation of females and stereotypes of both gender’s occupational and household roles.

Males provide the leading characters in almost 75% of the lessons of a class. Even in biographies, more than 89% of the figures are that of males. Men were shown as doctors, scientists, president, sellers as well as farmers and professionals.

 Male centred language was used and are being used for both male and female, like for example, mankind. Sex roles where traditional with males being basters in their homes, females were hardly consulted on matters relating to child control, budgeting, legal and religious effects. Each and every test projected and exaggerated view of males and victimization and acquiring of females.

There are various forms of bias in the instructional materials. They are-

i. Invisibility:- What we do not see makes a lasting impressions. This is the most fundamental and oldest form of bias in instructional materials. For example, in today’s textbook, women with disabilities, gays, homo-sexualities, etc continues to be missing and thus make an invisible impact on the minds of the learners.

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 ii. Stereotyping:- This is perhaps the most familiar form of bias that assigns a rigid set of characteristics to all the members of a group, at the cost of individual attributes and differences. For example, men are portrait as assertive and successful in their jobs but rarely discussed as husband or father.

Iii. Imbalance and selectivity:- The materials may perpetuates bias by presenting only one interpretation of an issue, situation or group. Such accounts simplify and distort complex issues by omitting different perspectives. For example, literature is drawn primarily from western male authors.

Gender bias in Curricular choice

 Curriculum is the crux of the whole educational process without which no educational endeavour can be concieved. It serves as the connection between National Education Policy’s, its objectives and the delivery of educational services. It is the curriculum that determine the purpose and content of education, the mode and length of delivery and provides guidance materials for educators regarding the process, the pedagogical approaches an assessment of outcomes. However, segregation in curricular subject is a major concern for the educators. If equality in learning outcomes and processes is to be achieved, then it implies that both boys and girls receive equitable treatment and attention and have equal opportunities to learn. This means, both boys and girls are exposed to the same curriculum. But, across the globe, boys and girls continue to choose different fields of study- men are over represented in science, agriculture, engineering; whereas, women are concentrated in health and educational studies. These gender differences are important because they have significant consequences for future employment and learnings.

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 The curriculum is mainly gendered in two ways-

i. Different subjects are associated with masculinity and femininity.

ii. teachers teach different materials or treat it differently according to whether they are teaching boys or girls.

Most curricular areas are associated with one gender or the other. In most of the schools, the curriculum is firmly rooted in the elite male curriculum of the earlier century, which restrict the freedom of girls and set limits to their expectations thereby creating gender biases in curricular choices. Moreover, the content is often presented in such a manner which emphasises gender role differences. It is also important to understand that this gender marking is not hard and fast and is mediated by society.

 With regard to the formal education system, it is necessary to distinguish between the formal curriculum and the hidden curriculum. Formal curriculum refers to the individuals’ academic subjects whereas the hidden curriculum refers to the set of values, attitudes, and norms that is implicitly conveyed to the students to teachers’ actions and by the organizational processes operating inside the school. When the hidden curriculum operates in a gender specific manner, it is said that the school is operating in gendered ways.

Gender bias in Teachers' Attitude

 Teacher’s perception of masculinity and femininity are very much crucial for their relationship with the pupils and can be an important factor in generating gender equality in schools. Some of the aspects of gender bias in teacher’s attitudes are as follows-

a. Use of gender biased language.

b. Confirming that boys and girls tend to behave differently.

c. Engaging in gender specific attitudes.

d. Paying attention to a specific gender in the classroom.

e. Engaging males in challenging discussions.

f. Assigning gender specific duties.

g. Expecting gender behaviour from both boys and girls.

 However, teahers also need to be aware of gender bias embedded in many educational materials and texts and they need to see to it that such bias do not get transmitted to the students through their discussions and behaviour. They need to understant that they might be imparting such instructions which convey feelings of gender bias and although it might be unintentional, yet it does reinforced gendered norms and attitudes. Such attitudes reflect the existing gender norms and in all probability, it might encourage passivity and submissiveness in girls and place greater values on leadership and independence in the boys. Such behaviour may obstruct personal, academic and professional development of the less favoured students.

Gender bias in Classroom Interaction

 Although there have been positive aims in ensuring that gender inequality does not occur in the work place, attention has been placed to the impact of such inequality in the classroom, particularly among young children. It is a serious issue that is most often ignored by the mainstream public. It is necessary that parents and teachers be aware of the effects of such inequality upon the future of their children and take necessary steps to prevent it.

School’s participate behavioural differences between males and females and therefore the first responsibility of the teacher is with reference to the relationship between himself/herself and the students themselves. Students spend most of their times in classroom interaction which is likely to shape their personality to a great extent. Life in the classroom is characterised by interpersonal interactions and therefore bias in such interaction effect the lives of students.

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 The classroom is a public forum and it might provide both boys and girls with different opportunities to acquire and practice the relevant skills. Thus, gender differences, caste, negative influences, on the personality development of the children. This is so because such interactions not only offer academic practice and learning opportunities, but also help the process of development of self.

Classroom interactions can be classified into three different categories-

(a) Those focussing on teacher and the students.

(b) Those focussing on student to teacher discourse &

(c) Those focussing on learner discourse in peer or group work.

 However, common to all there is the interaction & therefore it is important that the teacher provides equal interaction opportunities for all students regardless of gender, race & social status. Classroom interaction practice traditionally make boys more focal within the teaching process. Such gendered classroom behaviour or interaction supports a societal “ Hidden Curriculum” that can make girls believe that they are of less valued than the boys. Hence, it is recommended that teachers encourage students to think about the consequences of gendered classroom interaction and create a classroom which is inclusive of opportunities, choices & freedom for both the sexes.

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