How education can eradicate gender stereotypes and encourage equality.
How education can eradicate gender stereotypes and encourage equality. A child’s personality, values and beliefs are heavily influenced by the nature of the environment and people that they surround themselves with. So how do we use education to eradicate gender stereotypes and encourage equality? During childhood and adolescence children spend a majority of their day in school with their peers and teachers. Therefore, it would fair to assume that teachers and peers have a huge influence in nurturing and molding a child’s personality, like and dislikes, values and beliefs etc. if this were to be completely true, then that would mean an individual’s perception about themselves and others in society is a reflection of behaviour they observed during their school days. As a result, social issues such as gender inequality and segregation can be traced back to what children learn, and eventually imitate, from their days at school.
Primary socialization takes place at home, where parents enforce their own values and beliefs into their children. This includes gender norms and appropriate behavior. This is done through a series of positive and negative sanctions. For example, and parent may reward gender appropriate behavior, like a girl singing or dancing, with smiles or applause. In contrast, a parent might punish inappropriate behavior, like a girl playing with a toy gun or displaying aggressive behavior, with verbal punishment or a time out. Such sanctioning channels a child to conform to society’s predetermined gender roles.
Similarly, schools have historically played the same role in enforcing these gender roles; evidence of which can be seen in the way teachers acknowledge children, the toys the children are made to play with, the characters in the stories they are taught etc.
However, in the ever evolving 21st century world that we live in today, such forced gender conformity is often being frowned upon. Because of which, is it important that the education simultaneously adapts to the changing mindset of society, and modifies the mainstream curriculum to accommodate these changes. Just like a successful business, the education system need to adapt to changes in consumer states to remain successful.
Now, for the million-dollar question, how? Every issue needs to be resolved from its core, at its initial stage, which in this case is early-years/ foundation stage education. Teachers need to be trained to avoid subconsciously channeling a child towards certain subjects and future aspirations that would be gender appropriate. Although it may seem pointless and ineffective to some, the long-term impact is worth the effort. There is a reason why there are such stark difference in gender occupations, aside from physical restrictions, not all of these occupational differences can be boiled down to genetic differences. One doesn’t need to perform laborious tasks to become a CEO or lawyer.
Furthermore, if the stories we taught our children in school were changed to show more diversity and less stereotypes it would highly affect the way these students view themselves. How much longer to kids need to read stories about the girl being the damsel in distress waiting for prince charming, and the boy having to save the day each time and always showing minimal emotion or sensitivity. Children will eventually have to face reality where the world is not like the fairytales, and will have to be independent. If schools showed characters in books that were strong, brave, intelligent and the hero regardless of the gender of the character, there will be an evidence shift in the way children perceive themselves. We tend to find comfort in viewing something or someone we can relate to, which is why the movie industry has recently been trying to include more diversity in casting, so that people who watch these movies can relate to a character. Why can’t we do the same in education?
Moreover, Co-ed classes are one of the easiest ways to eliminate awkwardness and the invisible barrier formed between the genders, by familiarizing and respecting the other gender at a young age, and playing together and seeing the other girl or boy as just another peer instead of an alien, we would be preventing future misinterpretations of the opposite gender. In addition to that, having an equal workforce is vital as well. Yes, women naturally have an instinct to nurture children and are more patient, but it would be unfair to completely dismiss the idea that men too can be sensitive and nurturing.
How education can eradicate gender stereotypes and encourage equality. Attempting to change gender stereotypes and equality through education is not an easy task however the best medium to tackle the unspoken gender bias and segregation in society would be through the education system itself. Schools are meant to prepare and nurture children for the real world, a world where both genders have equal importance and opportunity. Education is an investment into the future generation, the way we approach it will affect what kind of world we will live in, the world our children will live in.