Gender in education

Group: Lisa Bennet, Lena Kunert, Pinja Fernström, Anna Majava, Julia Korhonen

Finland is considered to be a model country for gender equality and our school system is ranked among the best in the whole world. Gender equality is often viewed as something that is already achieved and not as a problem that should be addressed. Primary school is in a critical role teaching kids values and norms related to their gender; what it means to be a boy or a girl. This is usually something that happens unconsciously through the everyday interactions and conventions of school.

When kids start school they learn really soon that there are numerous rules on how to behave in a “right way”. These rules are essential to the fluency of the teaching but the problem is that they are different for boys and girls. In fact boys and girls are expected to behave in a very different way. Behavior that is seen as typical or natural for boys is not necessarily acceptable behavior for girls and vice versa. Girls are usually regarded as more peaceful, well behaved and better suited to school discipline than boys (Lahelma & Gordon 2003). In the everyday life of schools this means that teachers spend notably more time supervising boys behavior since girls are expected to naturally know how to behave correctly. On the other hand teachers react to girls bad behavior more negatively than that of boys, because bad behavior doesn’t fit to the stereotype of a well behaved girl (Gordon & Lahelma 2003). The general restlessness and tussling of boys is seen as typical for the gender and thus easily overlooked and not intervened since “boys will be boys”. The different kind of treatment based on gender stereotypes is usually done unconsciously and changing it requires gender sensitivity; knowledge and understanding of the gender system, the formation of gender-identities and the ability to recognize personal beliefs and assumptions concerning gender (Syrjäläinen & Kujala 2010). Teachers should try to encounter students as individuals and be aware of the ways that gender affects the individuals position in school.

Gender stereotypes may also have very far-reaching effects. The labour market in Finland is still really divided and gendered. The technical field of study and work is chosen mainly by men while occupations in care, for example nursing have woman majority. This is a problem because the classically masculine fields are usually respected more and one can earn more in these branches than in many feminine occupations. This separation starts already in schools with school subjects. There are still unconscious attitudes that boys are somehow naturally better in mathematical subjects than girls. This means that if girls succeed in these subjects they are praised for their hard work and boys’ success is attributed to their ”natural” skills. This puts girls in a position where they are seen as underdogs and that they should work twice as hard compared to boys to succeed in for example maths. Through these actions and attitudes gender stereotypes are passed to children who then might prefer the fields of work they are thought to be natural in even though individual interests might lie elsewhere.

Gordon, Tuula & Lahelma, Elina (2003) Vuorovaikutus ja ihmissuhteet virallisessa koulussa. Teoksessa Elina Lahelma & Tuula Gordon (toim.) Koulun arkea tutkimassa – Yläasteen erot ja erilaisuudet. Helsinkin: Helsingin kaupungin opetusviraston julkaisusarja, 42-59.

Syrjäläinen, Eija & Kujala, Tiina (2010) Sukupuolitietoinen tasa-arvokasvatus – vaiettu aihe opettajankoulutuksessa ja koulun arjessa. Teoksessa Markku Suortamo, Liisa Tainio, Elina Ikävalko, Tarja Palmu & Sirpa Tani (toim.) Sukupuoli ja tasa-arvo koulussa. Jyväskylä: PS-kustannus, 25-37.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.