Closing the circle: Teaching gender issues to teachers

Last week the French supreme council for gender equality published a report on the imperative to keep mainstreaming gender equality issues in teacher preparation programs and to make knowledge and skills in these areas required for teacher graduation. “Making teachers and education the drivers of learning and equality” the report is called. “School presents an image of society”, the press release from the Council told us, “it is affected by and can reproduce social inequalities linked to social origins or gender. To change attitudes and break down gender stereotypes, equality in education must begin at an early age.”

This change is needed even in France, showing that gender parity in school does not translate into gender equality. Teachers have been shown still to interact more with boys (56%) than with girls (44%). In textbooks, the importance of women is still downplayed, with women continuing to appear in traditional roles: they represent 40% of people shown in textbooks for the preparatory class for primary school, and 70% of those who are cooking and cleaning, while only making up 3% of those carrying out a job in science. This can impact the types of career trajectories boys and girls end up taking: among students scoring 10 on average in their final exam (out of 20), only 27% of girls, but 41% of boys will choose to study science.

At present, learning about gender equality has been an optional course and the French council believes that only a minority of the country’s 900,000 teachers have taken it. As for ongoing teacher training, it’s estimated that only 1% of all training days covered gender equality in 2015-2016. As well as suggesting that an obligatory course on gender equality be set up for all prospective teachers, the contents of which would be assessed at graduation, the Council suggests that teachers already in post be provided professional development courses on the issue.

2The mainstreaming of gender equality in teacher training programs will be considered in depth in the 2017 GEM Report, as a way of tracking progress towards Target 4.5 on gender equality, and Target 4.7 on education for global citizenship and sustainable development. By monitoring whether and how countries mainstream knowledge and skills related to sustainable development and global citizenship in teacher training as well as in national curricula and textbooks, we gain a better understanding of classroom dynamics and a more realistic picture of actual teaching and learning.

But to effectively monitor what is happening in teacher training courses, we need a proper way of comparing them across contexts. One example, which deserves further study, is the UN Economic Commission for Europe framework for integrating ESD in teacher training curricula. It identifies key competencies for teachers and educators, including integrative thinking, inclusivity, dealing with complexity, critical analysis, active engagement in contemporary issues, creative thinking about alternative futures, and transformative pedagogy. Setting up a standard coding protocol – as we did for curricula and textbooks – for teacher training institutions’ curricula, for instance, would make analysis easier.



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