How can gender equality be integrated in the classroom? Challenges for teachers in secondary and high school education
May 26, 2022
92% of young Romanians want to discuss gender equality at school, according to a UNICEF survey in 20201. They would like to receive information about situations of discrimination and harassment and to learn more about health and the human body.
To get better prepared to face challenges in including gender equality in the classroom, two training sessions for teachers and support staff (school counsellors, psychologists) in pre-university education were organized in Cluj and Bucharest in May 2022. The participants were from all areas of the country, from educational institutions from both rural and urban environments. The training sessions were held by Alexandra Columban, from the Action Center for Equality and Human Rights (ACTEDO) and Irina Ilisei from the Plural Association, within the "EGALIS: Gender equality through social change and education" project.
The training sessions included general notions about various types of discrimination, legislation and anti-discrimination institutions in Romania, as well as brief information from the history of the women's rights movement, globally and in Romania (civil rights, right to vote) along with statistics regarding the current situation for women.
An analysis of the school curriculum from a gender perspective was also included, starting from the particular analysis of several subjects (Romanian language and literature, history, psychology, philosophy, etc.). Most of the curriculum in middle school and high school does not explicitly address the gender dimension or elements of gender equality. An exception is "Counselling and personal development", respectively "Counselling and guidance". All the subjects in the curriculum are, however, attractive in terms of the possibility of introducing a gender-sensitive approach.
"What emerged [after the analysis of the curricula] is the systematic absence of the gender equality approach in pre-university education. In Romanian Language and Literature, the curriculum for all twelve grades does not contain explicit elements of gender equality. In addition, the suggested authors and texts in the curriculum clearly disadvantage women: for example, out of the 168 writers mentioned in the high school curriculum, only 16 are women, in other words, less than 10% of the recommended authors are women. In History class, the situation is only slightly better: the 7th grade curriculum provides two case studies that address the experience of women in history: "Women in public life" and "Life on the front and in the home front". […] as a rule, the approach to gender equality in the classroom and the balanced representation of women (writers, historical, cultural, sports figures, etc.) becomes a personal choice of teachers with an affinity for this theme, who operate "acrobatics" through the curriculum and textbooks to touch upon this subject, and not a requirement or obligation throughout the school years."2
In addition to the theoretical part, the teachers had the opportunity to discuss how they can contribute to the promotion of gender equality in their educational activity, both in terms of the choice of teaching materials and teaching style, but also through gender-sensitive choice of extra-curricular activities .
Another objective of these sessions was testing the guide for teaching gender equality in pre-university, which is to be launched by the Coalition for Gender Equality this September. The participants had the opportunity to go through a series of practical exercises for addressing gender equality in the classroom and provide feedback on the worksheets in the textbook. They also received audio-video materials as well as recommendations of educational resources to help them deepen the topic.
The training sessions are part of the project "EGALIS: Gender equality through social change and education" , developed by the Partnership for Equality Center, in partnership with the Front Association, AnA - the Scientific Society for Feminist Analysis, ACTEDO - the Action Center for Equality and Rights Association, PLURAL Association and SEX vs The STORK Association, with financial support from Active Citizens Fund Romania, programme funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants Grants 2014 -2021.
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1 UNICEF, U-Report Suvey on gender equality between girls and boys, 2020.