I recently had the opportunity to attend the Learning by Design conference at the International School of Brussels. Two sessions were dedicated to the topic of gender awareness, which was ideal because next school year (2017-18), Michelle Ang, Susan Min, and I plan to develop a forum dedicated to the topic of gender awareness! This is in line with the FIS strategic plan and our aim of placing student well-being at the forefront of our work. All teachers interested in joining are more than welcome!
This blog post is therefore dedicated to bringing some key details that can help everyone to learn about the unique insight Steven De Baerdemaeker, the conference speaker, brings to a wide array of schools including ISB.
To begin, Steven discussed the extent to which scientific studies focus on gender differences (white areas) in comparison to similarities (shaded areas):
As a result, our understanding of students can often rely on stereotypes:
And as teachers know, the brain is plastic and malleable:
Given the following statistical data, we have a responsibility to our students to increase the inclusivity of our curriculum:
- Gender constancy, the understanding of gender as permanent, is 80% fixed in children by the age of 5-6
- For every negative interaction a teacher has with a girl, a teacher gets into twice as many negative interactions with boys
- When children’s studies on gender roles from the 60s and 70s are replicated today, the results from back then are exactly the same: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VqsbvG40Ww
- Gender stereotyping creates a self-image that leads many individuals to make poor career choices, as well as leads to shortages in a number of occupations
So, what does this have to do with language? Well, a lot of stereotyping begins with how we talk to and about each other, and as Freire suggested, how we name the world (1972). Steven suggests that in order to break these patterns, our curriculum should be representative and inclusive (i.e. rather than including “women’s studies” sections in units- which reinforce the idea of otherness- include diversity throughout every unit):
He provided some resource links (originally in Dutch) for preschool, primary, and secondary educators:
More on Steven: http://www.seksuelevorming.be/praktijkverhalen/we-zijn-allemaal-een-beetje-anders
More on consulting group: https://www.cavaria.be/vorming-gender-en-seksuele-diversiteit-in-het-onderwijs
Thanks for reading!