Promoting Gender Equality

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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.

2. Changing schools in the context of wider societal conditions...
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