Title IX is the US law passed in 1972 that states that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…”
It is best known for its impact on athletics rather than equity in the provision of academic instruction, and is still being defined because of continuing controversy over the law’s interpretation.
A blue ribbon panel in 1992 stated that the Department of Education “reaffirmed its strong commitment to equal opportunity for boys and girls” and the issue of gender equality in education continues to be a work in progress.
The Gender Gap
Many conclude that the gender gap is closing and that differences within gender groups are more significant than the differences between them. Ethnicity, race, disability, and economic differences are a more striking indicator of inequality than gender. However, the gender gap still exists with boys continuing to lag in communication and language arts and girls failing to participate equally in math, science and engineering. Educators need to begin at elementary school level and to be aware that equity issues in education mean a whole lot more than having an equal number of boys and girls in the classroom.
Gender Bias Classrooms
Subtle but potent gender biases exist in classrooms and the difference between biased and equitable teaching is sometimes difficult for a teacher to appreciate. Thoughtful teaching strategies can undo this bias and promote gender equity and teachers needing information can access helpful resources such as Dr. Patricia Fioriello’s eGuide on Gender Equity Issues in Elementary Education.
Girls at Risk
The equity issues in education related to gender that need to be addressed are: girls at risk of dropping out of school; gender bias in student/teacher interactions; the participation and achievement of girls in mathematics and science; students enrolling in and completing vocational education courses historically non-traditional to their sex; gender bias in standardized tests; gender differences in learning styles and sexual harassment of students by their peers.
Influence of Teachers
Although most teachers believe that they treat girls and boys the same, research into equity issues in education indicates that they frequently do not. Studies show that the teacher’ sex seems to have little bearing on the outcome; it is the sex of the student that seems to make the difference. For example, boys receive more of the teacher’s attention (acceptance, praise, criticism, and remediation) particularly in science and math class. Boys get more severe punishment than girls, perhaps reinforcing that there are higher expectations for boys. Girls are often rewarded for being quiet, neat and calm. Boys are often encouraged to be active, think independently and speak up.
In the classroom, teaching is often geared more to the learning styles of white males, which tend to be individualistic and competitive. In contrast, many girls prefer cooperation over competition, and are therefore likely to be more productive with group instruction and cooperative learning. At around 8 and 9 years old, girls are confident and assertive. By the time they end adolescence many have a poorer self-image, are less confident about themselves and their abilities, and have more limited views about their future. Reasons for this are constantly being researched and it means that schools must regularly review their policies, procedures, and programs for evidence of gender bias and discrimination and the work towards gender equity throughout the school culture.
A permissive attitude towards sexual harassment is another way schools reinforce the socialization of girls as inferior. Unless teachers are made aware of the gender role socialization and the biased messages they are unintentionally imparting to students every day, and until teachers are provided with the methods and resources necessary to eliminate gender-bias in their classrooms, girls will continue to receive an inequitable education.
The socialization of gender roles and the use of a gender biased hidden curriculum lead to an inequitable education for girls and boys. What changes can be made to address gender issues in education and create a more equitable learning environment for all children? Teachers must be made aware of their gender biased tendencies and need to provide strategies to alter the behavior. Finally, efforts need to be made to address gender bias in current educational materials.
Gender equity has moved from the periphery to the core of our educational system. Confronting the equity issues in education that remain will ensure that education is indeed for all.
Surprising Facts About How Boys are Treated in School
Analyzing the Single Gender Classroom
Make Single-Sex Classes a Priority in Your School
Ways to Increase Girls’ Involvement in Class
Girls Deserve Same Education as Boys
Pros and Cons of Single Sex Classes in K-12 Education
Girls Denied Same Opportunities as Boys to Excel in Math
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