Publish at September 14 2022 Updated September 14 2022

Deconstructing gender bias in schools

Work to be done in kindergarten

If the school is a reflection of society, that means it also comes with its shortcomings. Indeed, despite the good will and advances made in recent decades, gender equality has not yet been achieved. Some countries are even seeing backward movements of rights. Moreover, gender stereotypes are still strongly anchored in the population. Whether it is in roles, attitudes and others, all place in feminine or masculine each element, profession, etc.

A binary school too

Consequently, this binarity is also perceived in the school environment. This has a major effect on educational choices and student outcomes in certain subjects. Moreover, UNESCO reiterated in March 2022 its commitment to combating gender bias in educational environments. Teachers are the first to notice the impact of stereotypes on children. For example, while girls do a little better than boys, they usually take the path of training related to caring for others, appearing, etc. Textbooks too feature more male than female figures, especially in history, giving the image that there were virtually only important men.

This differentiation in school affects society, which then continues to talk about male or female occupations. In part, it even affects the inequality of wages for the same job. And while public policies have helped with this, there are still many areas where differences are glaring.

Getting out of stereotypes

What should schools do to eliminate these clichés? For starters, teachers need to be trained to address this topic and be aware of its biases. After all, how often do teachers find themselves telling a child not to play with that "boy/girl toy"? Besides, toys are the first contact kids have with societal stereotypes. Hence the work of some groups to, for example, no longer be cliché in Christmas presents by refusing to give a doll to Nicholas or a truck to Lea.

Talk about how a male student who cries or a schoolgirl who would be very physical contribute to perpetuating the myths. Therefore, it seems necessary to deconstruct these thoughts through various educational activities. This can be, for the youngest, through entertainment. For example, ProEgal in France offers interactive games where children had to associate games and jobs with gender. As they grow older, other approaches have interest. Whether it's creating posters undoing prejudice or, as in this school in St. Lawrence, rewriting (often gendered) stories by changing gender roles.

A plethora of vignettes, textbooks, and online modules for teachers to address gender stereotypes can be found online. For example, many historical popularizers on YouTube have worked to address female figures and feminist topics.

Videographer Manon Bril is the perfect example, but there are many others. For other ideas, this file from RIRE (Information Network for Educational Success) gives some good ideas for work. All these activities must be followed by a return to class with the teacher. The teacher must go back over the elements raised and, if he or she organizes discussions and debates, make sure that the students understand so that they do not come away with more clichés. The task is certainly daunting, but starting early will have major effects on tomorrow's society.

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