Guide for Strengthening Gender Equality & Inclusiveness: Theme 4 Transformational Roles

Guide for Strengthening Gender Equality & Inclusiveness: Theme 4 Transformational Roles


Access to quality education for all children
has long been an important goal for the international community. As more countries meet this goal, the focus
has shifted to ensuring that the education provided presents messages and images that
include and represent all subgroups in a society. This training will provide information for
those developing and reviewing teaching and learning materials on how to ensure that members
of all subgroups are represented appropriately in teaching and learning materials. The themes presented through the training
are a guide to improving inclusion in teaching and learning materials. A number of textbook analyses have found that
members of one social subgroup are often portrayed more positively than others. For example, in most contexts, girls and women
are represented almost exclusively in home-based or reproductive roles. In addition, girls and women are rarely represented
as members of the paid workforce, and women are inadequately represented in history books,
mathematics and science materials, and civic education student books as leaders and contributors
to their societies. In contrast, boys and men are usually represented
in more socially productive roles. Boys and men are also usually represented
as participating more in outdoor and physical activities and engaging more in the broader
community. This trend is also often observed with other
social subgroups, whether they are subgroups based on ethnic and language affiliation,
the presence of a disability, or other characteristics. An analysis of roles of characters with disabilities
in text and illustrations reveals that people who are considered to have a physical disability
or chronic illness, or those who do not follow the mainstream society, are represented as
having negative behaviors. These biased and possibly discriminating representations
can perpetuate stereotypes that do not accurately depict individuals’ personality characteristics,
skills, levels of participation in the labor force, or contributions to society. When teaching and learning materials perpetuate
outdated stereotypes, it deprives members of marginalized groups of valuable role models. And, this means that members of those marginalized
groups are subtly discouraged from envisioning themselves in more powerful or valued roles. Similarly, if boys and members of privileged
groups only see themselves depicted in specific occupations or in narrow roles, such as “fathers,”
then this also limits their aspirations and future opportunities. In teaching and learning materials, depictions
of only traditional occupations helps maintain negative attitudes toward women and members
of both subordinate and privileged groups who try to break out of the typical patterns. Teaching and learning materials have the power
to reinforce stereotypes found outside the school. However, they also have the power to transform
them and give children greater options that are not constrained by narrowly defined gender
norms or disability. When developing teaching and learning materials,
careful consideration should be given to interpersonal relations and the activities they engage in,
to ensure that representations for characters are a balanced reflection of traditional and
non-traditional gender and social roles. Relationships between girls and boys and women
and men, as well as relationships between those with and without disabilities, should
be presented as equal. The relationships should also be presented
as showing mutual respect, with all characters participating in decisions and activities
and exercising both traditional and non-traditional roles (e.g., a father caring for an infant)
to promote collaboration and cooperation. In teaching and learning materials, characters
representing all social subgroups should be portrayed with proportional frequency in leading
and supporting roles. This means they should be portrayed with similar
activities of observing, participating, leading, watching, and assisting. Particularly in contexts in which ethnic,
language, or other cultural tensions may exist, illustrations should portray members from
each social group interacting in harmonious and mutually beneficial ways. Characters representing all subgroups should
be represented in all typical areas of activities with proportional frequency. These activities include education, such as
images of students in the classroom, reading, doing homework, as well as illustrations of
participating in leisure activities such as sports and completing chores or other family
responsibilities, such as caring for siblings, getting water, cleaning. Characters representing all subgroups should
be portrayed with proportional frequency as engaging in indoor and outdoor activities. Characters with disabilities should be portrayed
as having a wide range of personal traits, interests, and occupations. And, characters representing all subgroups
should be shown in non-traditional and traditional occupations. For example, materials can include a female
truck driver or a male nurse. Generally, characters in teaching and learning
materials should depict a range of ethnicities, characteristics, and abilities. All characters should be portrayed as having
a range of intellectual abilities and potential and as achieving various academic, intellectual,
social, and personal goals. Here are several questions that can be used
as you review or create teaching and learning materials which demonstrate gender equitable
and inclusive language: In the materials or illustrations, are male
and female characters equally portrayed in leading and supporting roles? In the materials or illustrations, are characters
with disabilities portrayed in leading and supporting roles? In the materials or illustrations, are characters
from different ethnic and religious groups portrayed in leading and supporting roles? Do the materials or illustrations and other
texts portray people with disabilities in positive and active ways? Are female characters portrayed in the materials
or illustrations as having comparable skills, knowledge, and accomplishments as male characters? Are male characters portrayed in the materials
or illustrations as having comparable skills, knowledge, and accomplishments as female characters?

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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