Promoting Gender Equality

Gender equality is the removal of deep-seated barriers to equality of opportunity and outcome, such as discriminatory laws, customs, practices and institutional processes. It also entails concern with the development of the freedoms of all individuals, irrespective of gender; to choose outcomes they have reason to value. It is integral to ideas of educational quality, as an education system would lack key dimensions of quality if it was discriminatory or did not develop capabilities in children to work for an education that was personally and socially worthwhile.

Some aspects of this are the freedom to enter school, to learn and participate there in safety and security, to develop identities that tolerate others, to promote health and to enjoy economic, political and cultural opportunities. Gender equality in the classroom therefore is a key to connecting schooling and citizenship with human rights and underpins values of care and respect for children and their teachers. Gender equality is an important and ambitious aspiration for countries and education systems, and is linked to the achievement of gender equality in the everyday lives of individuals and groups.

Over the last one hundred years there have been huge steps forward towards realising gender equality in education, but there is also considerable difference within the world on these issues and much work still to be done. There is general agreement that attainment of gender equality requires a multi-faceted approach, there is no single panacea. The following strategies can be employed; 1. Supporting and training teachers for gender equality Very little work has been done in teacher training courses to help develop teachers’ understanding of gender inequalities and how to overcome them in the classroom.

To address the issues of both teachers’ professional and personal orientation, opportunities are needed for student teachers and teachers in-service – who may have had only very limited or no pre-service training – to understand their own gender socialisation and identities and to understand how gender discrimination takes place in schools, as well as their role in addressing it (Chege 2004). Full support of local education authorities, teacher training institutions and in-service providers is needed to enhance the effectiveness of teacher training for gender equality.

Because the issues are complex a single training session, either at the pre-service stage or through in-service, is generally not sufficient to change teaching practice and behaviour. And any training that does not extend to supporting teachers develop practicable solutions and is accompanied by monitoring and follow-up support will have limited impact. Where training is coordinated and effective it is not well documented so that knowledge of strategies and learning is not captured and utilised.

Strategies need to be explored for storing the knowledge about gender equitable pedagogies that is developed at schools and training centres, so that future teachers can learn from it and become motivated and so to avoid the need for new programmes to ‘start from scratch’ but, rather, to benefit from lessons learned and experience already gained. Teachers face multiple problems and challenges in their personal and professional lives including low pay and poor conditions contributing to low morale and low status.

They may face abuse from colleagues and students, while at the same time being expected to be active transformers of the system, to assess textbooks, audit curriculum, develop local curriculum, and develop new classroom practice. Expectations of teachers to become effective change agents for gender equality – inside reformers – will not be met unless teachers are supported and empowered to do this through the coordinated efforts of pre-service training institutions, providers of in-service and ongoing professional development. . Changing schools in the context of wider societal conditions Sometimes gender equality practices at school are out of step with ideas children learn at home and the responsibilities they have within a household, many of which are marked by strong gender divisions. Some groups who feel their cultures under attack from processes of globalization or other hostile forces refuse to contemplate the education of girls because it appears to undermine valued cultural practices.

But there are many different opinions in communities that uphold traditions and all views need to be taken account, not just those of recognised leader or head of household. Because issues concerning gender and sexuality involve families’ hopes and fears for daughters and sons it is important not to ignore cultural, economic and political opposition to gender equality in school and to consider how the race and class inequalities that sometimes nurture this opposition can be addressed as part of a broad and integrated approach to developing gender equitable pedagogies and societies.

Where traditional leaders and elders have been consulted, for example in Liberia, there has been considerable success in changing attitudes for formal schooling for girls, especially through forging links with traditional teachers who initiate young girls at puberty (Oxfam 2002). 3. ) Governments and non-State providers should: National Level; • Put in place strong legal measures to outlaw sexual violence and harassment in school, make procedures for dealing with this through a code of conduct clear. Communicate this to all concerned. Develop a focus on gender equality and pedagogy as part of the teacher education programme, both at the pre-service and the in-service stage • Invest in learning materials and resource networks to facilitate teachers’ discussion amongst themselves regarding gender equitable strategies and inputs into policy. • Ensure planning and budgeting for capacity building at all levels of decentralized education systems so that the capacity to understand, develop and implement policies exists. • Where good policies exist, analyse the blockages and bottlenecks, and resourcing in order to ensure that these are being implemented.

Examine planning processes to ensure these are realistic and well budgeted, and examine the capacity of officials at all levels to implement. • Learn from small innovative programmes, which may be carried out by NGOs or NGOs in collaboration with the government. • Evaluate and analyse curricula to ensure they are not entrenching gender divisions. Provincial and District levels: • Put in place capacity building so that education officials have the capacity to monitor and evaluate pedagogical practices. Develop the capacity and role of the inspectorate to provide support for gender equality in pedagogy and ensure adequate budget and other resources for this. • Work with non-state providers and NGOs to ensure good communication, and synergies. Teacher training institutions, local education authorities and NGOs involved in teacher training, teacher development and in-service training • Ensure that training staff are trained and have the capacity to provide strong examples of gender equitable pedagogies in all their teaching, as well as develop modules to be taught as part of all pre-service and in-service courses. Develop teachers’ capacities to design and deliver gender equitable life-skills in the curriculum, as well as support them in their training (pre- and in-service) to live by the same principles and understandings. • Strategies need to be explored for storing the knowledge about gender equitable pedagogies at schools and training centres, so that future teachers can learn and become motivated and the expensive start-up costs for developing programmes do not have to be repeated endlessly. Teachers need to become less didactic and authoritarian and more participatory and inclusive in their teaching. • Ensure strong collaboration (communication, policy development, capacity building) between different training levels and different providers. Non-Governmental Organisations • Facilitate teacher led initiatives to try out strategies for gender equity in pedagogy, for example through developing and publishing new learning materials, running workshops on new classroom methods, or through participatory action research. Campaign for gender equality focus in local debates about policy making and pedagogy • Model good practice through running clubs or other initiatives that give children a chance to examine issues of gender critically and suggest alternative ways of teaching. • Supporting teachers in the teaching of relevant and appropriate life-skills courses, and to live gender equality in their lives as well as their classrooms. • Work to complement and strengthen government initiatives and develop capacity of government to ensure quality and accountability for pedagogies. Document initiatives and experiences and share these with all other stakeholders, especially government. Schools and teachers • Develop school level policies for gender equitable pedagogies collectively with students, teachers and through School Councils. These will include: policies on school ethos, bullying and harassment, curriculum development, etc. • Be informed about policy existing and agendas for gender equality and pedagogy beyond the school, the locality and the country. Understand gender equity beyond stereotypes and investigate school and teachers’ own contexts and understandings. • Be trained and empowered to analyse and challenge gender stereotyping and gender bias in curriculum materials, in language use and means of communication in classrooms and schools. • Recognise teachers multiple pressures and encourage supportive networks and practices. • Recognise the value of the insights and values which the school council, PTA or school management committee bring to the school and work together to collaborative develop new practices. . Living as well as teaching gender equality There is considerable evidence from many different settings across continents of classroom practice that is far from acceptable and widespread instances of sexual harassment and violence at school. The majority of accounts point to teachers and male pupils involved in sexual harassment of female teachers and primarily girl pupils. The issues touch on how teachers not only teach gender equality, but live this in areas of their life considered private.

Studies in seven African countries show how the relationship between male teachers and girl students is often constructed as sexualised (Chege 2004). ‘Lifeskills education’, which assumes teachers will learn the material they teach, can be only part of a successful approach to addressing issues of equality and democracy in the classroom. These programmes vary widely in their content and orientation and need to take account of teachers’ lives, fears and identities as well as appropriate pedagogies for the dimensions of gender equality they address.

Thus pedagogy for gender equality is not only a matter of professional orientation, but also of changing personal behaviour amongst teachers and other education officials, and challenging some of the deeply held assumptions that perpetuate inequalities. 5. Educating the teachers Governments have a responsibility to develop gender equality in teaching through the courses and practical materials that they provide. Teacher education needs to equip teachers to promote an understanding of the profound nature of gender inequity and to overcome the resultant barriers to learning.

Ensuring that gender equity is a central theme throughout a programme of teacher education, rather than delivered in one-off sessions, is likely to ingrain understanding more effectively. Training needs to help teachers to develop practical solutions, and should be accompanied by monitoring and follow-up support. The efforts of pre-service training institutions, providers of in-service and ongoing professional development, need to be co-ordinated, and well documented.

Building networks of teachers to work together or collaborating through school clusters and teachers’ centres, are ways of sustaining training and providing ongoing support for teachers and education officials. 7 The teaching process is about the relationships between teachers and learners in schools. What is considered to be ‘good’ teaching and what promotes successful learning will change, according to who is involved and the context in which the learning takes place. Teachers need to be able to work with different learning styles.

Teacher education needs to equip teachers to work through some of the implications of local gender issues, and to support teachers in developing the confidence to encourage participation from pupils and the local community in shaping a vision for gender equality. For example, men tend to dominate school management committees, while women fulfil the more domestic roles. The school needs to interact with the local community to ensure that significant local issues of gender inequality (for example, abuse of girls by their peers and by teachers) are analysed and addressed.