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Gender bias and gender stereotyping in curriculum

Gender bias prevails in almost every sphere of our life. For instance we can take the example of
teaching and nursing professions that are generally seen as a women’s professions. It has been
perceived that students and patients can connect with them better. Such stereotypical notions cannot
be eradicated from society immediately, but can be gradually weakened. To eliminate these changes
it is essential to bring positive changes in curriculum. Publishers should take care to include
sociologically and psychologically-sensitive content in textbooks. The curriculum should be gender
and disability-sensitive and ecologically-conscious.

But recently the deep rooted gender bias in our society has further been propagated by the revised
school textbook in Rajasthan. Ample instances hinting male superiority have been found in
English and Hindi school textbooks. The pictures show only boys playing games indicating that
games are only meant for boys and women have been used only in reference to men.Similar
incident took place in Bengaluru where a NCERT (National Council of Education Research and
Training). Many school text books contain drawing depicting men engaged in construction of
house, Women who are invariably present at construction sites carrying pans of bricks and cement,
are conspicuous by their absence. The drawing is just an example of stereotyping and gender bias in
India, especially in primary textbooks

In classrooms, teachers often breed an atmosphere which implies that boys, on an average,
understand science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) better, whereas girls perform
better in reading, writing and handicraft. Such classroom discourses result in similar behaviour
among kids – each student showing conformity to their respective gender roles.

Such textbooks not just promote gender bias but also promoted stereotypical images in society. In
fact, a teacher might merely be clueless as to how to address discrimination and difference with
regard to class, caste, socio-economic background, and so on. It should be mandatory for the
teachers both in private and government schools to undergo teacher-training courses and
programmes.

Similar pattern has been found when it comes to history books. From ancient period to modern
Indian history, the role of prominent women is generally marginalized. In fact, overall depiction of
women is mainly in ‘caring roles’ or relational category – daughter, sister, wife and so on. Women
are depicted in a limited manner-as professional athletes. Certain terms like policeman must be
changed to police person to make them gender sensitive.

Why is it so that female characters are not used in description as businesswoman or police officer?
In the textbooks, no image has been used to describe male character working in the house and the
household works are already restricted to female characters in books. This is how school has
become a major medium of internalising the gender roles and stereotypes directly and indirectly. It
has been found that in stories, female characters are mostly described as working in traditional
roles.

The National Curriculum Framework 2005 prioritises gender sensitive education as a means of
attaining quality education. CBSE, acting under NCERT’s directives, has designed a kit on gender
sensitivity. It includes a handbook, cards and a manual for teachers to equip them with required
skills to practice gender sensitive learning. With such positive reforms our way, we have started the
journey towards a gender sensitive culture, and we hope to see considerable transformation in the
classroom.

Even after having so many policies, our education system has not changed due to multiple factors –
a prominent one being that teachers are not professionally trained. The lack of trained teachers
comes in the way of a gender sensitive classroom. Also, even if teachers are trained the most of the
teaching programmes of the country lack gender studies. Teachers are not trained to do justice to
gender sensitive textbooks. Teachers need to understand the importance of providing a friendly and
non-threatening learning environment for all learners to thrive.

CURRICULUM AND GENDER

Including activities, topics on gender equality in the curriculum can tremendously play an important

role in ensuring gender fair society. Few are discussed below.

a. Including Gender studies in the syllabus

Gender studies can be included in the syllabus so as to enhance awareness, values on gender and

gender equality. Topics such as need for gender fair society for the up-liftment of our nation.

Importance can be given to Woman Education, Transgender empowerment etc also can be included.

b. Including activities that promotes gender equality

Activities that promote Gender Equality can also be included in the curriculum. It will inculcate

values such as mutual respect for all the genders among the young minds.

c. Including co curricular activities that ensures gender equality

Activities that promote the values of gender equality can be included as co curricular activities.
d. Preparing syllabus that ensures gender equality

Care must be taken while preparing syllabus to ensure gender equality in citing examples etc. There

is a trend seen that most of the examples cited will have a male dominance.

e. Gender fair pedagogy

Care must be taken to avoid inequalities in pedagogical practices. Equal importance must be given

to all the gender in all the practices. Equal involvement by both the gender should be ensured.

f. Methods as gender fair

Methods of transacting the curriculum should adopt gender fair methods. There should not be any

discrimination based on gender

References

NCERT. (2006). Position paper National Focus Group on Gender Issues in the Curriculum.

Oakley, A. (1999). Sex, Gender and Society. New York: Harper and Row.

Subramanyam.R (2003). Gender Equality in Education: Definitions an Measurements, International


Journal of Educational Development.