The Role of Gender in K-12 Systems
Gender inequality is the unequal perception and subsequent treatment of people based on gender and stems from socially constructed or empirically grounded distinctions. Gender inequality arises from differences in gender roles in society, and gender systems are often hierarchical, reflecting inequalities that become manifest in several dimensions of daily life.
Gender related biases in education are endemic in most countries with K-12 education systems and options are being investigated to correct these issues.
Gender Issues in K-12 Education
A common trend has long been established among educators who have worked on the assumption that certain subjects are more appropriate for boys than girls, and some subjects are better for girls than boys. This has caused disparity in the way girls and boys are taught in schools and delineated gender specific career paths. Gender bias in K-12 education has made it particularly difficult for girls who are denied equal access to math and science education and subsequently to better job market positions. Research has proven that the data used to interpret that boys are more likely to succeed in science and mathematics than girls is biased, as it is based on unequal education opportunities for girls.
Implementing Gender in K-12 Curricula
Gender-Equity Issues in the United States of America
The American constitution says that:
No person in the US shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in , or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial facility.
There are numerous aspects that American schools are currently exploring to eliminate gender bias in the K-12 education system. Some of these include:
- Educators adopting the right attitude that all children, regardless of gender, have the right of access to equal education and career opportunities.
- Acknowledgement by teachers that the problem of gender inequality exists and needs to be addressed and changed. One of the major reasons that gender bias has existed for so long in schools is that teachers were either not aware that there was a problem, or they were convinced that they were addressing the problem whereas they may have been perpetuating it.
- New curricula geared to educate girls and boys equally. This involves a system that takes into account that students have different learning styles that are not gender specific. Some students are better at auditory leaning while others are better at visual learning and some learn better with hands-on experience. It is important that teachers are able to recognize various learning styles an adjust the curriculum to suit the learning styles of individual students.
- One of the options being explored to address gender issues is to have separate classes for girls and boys, although there are many pros and cons related to separating genders.
- New textbooks that are not gender-biased.
- Truly equal access to extracurricular activities for boys and girls to enhance socialization and learning.
Addressing Gender Inequality in Canadian Schools
- As school is the place where children get their basic education it would be advantageous, in addressing gender inequality in schools, to introduce a course on the subject in every school to help eliminate the problem in every field.
- Ensure that girls are given the same starting opportunities as boys.
- Work is in progress on eliminating problems such as teenage pregnancy, sexual intimidation, gender related chores, and bullying, all of which hinder access to equal opportunities for girls.
- Conveying constant messages from the K-12 education system that the role of a woman as an educated child care giver is a career that merits top remuneration, on par with conventional job market opportunities.
- Teachers who are trained to treat all children with an open mind.
- Developing educational materials that are gender-neutral.
- Equal opportunity and expectation for girls and boys in STEM education.
Options for Addressing the Problem of Gender Inequality in Schools From Other Countries
SWITZERLAND – The entire education system needs to be reformed to allow both girls and boys to express themselves and be more creative, and to explore the possibilities available for careers in all walks of life, not just math and business. Teach children of both genders that being anything they want to be is alright.
NORWAY – Encourage a belief in schools, and society in general, that girls should be given the same chances at school as boys and the same job opportunities. Encourage girls at school to speak for themselves and avoid teenage pregnancy, so that they can be in control of their own lives.
U.K. – The establishment by school administrators of strict sanctions against the promotion of gender inequality in the school environment.
AUSTRALIA – Grassroots development as a priority in the educational system will provide equal exposure and access to education and career opportunities and help address gender inequalities at the most fundamental levels.
Gender bias exists in every aspect of society from the workplace to the political arena, starting with the gender gap in children’s education. Gender inequality affects how children are educated, what opportunities they are given access to, how big their paycheck will be, and is one of the reasons why women continue to lag behind men in science and math careers.
Gender inequality directly affects the successful implementation of project, policy and program goals of national and international organizations, and in turn greatly influences the social development process of societies.
Addressing gender inequality at the school level will reduce the impact of gender on the opportunities, interactions and social roles for men and women in the future.
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