JIS News

The Expanding Educational Horizons project (EEH) in the Ministry of Education is undertaking a sensitization programme for principals, teachers and parents, which is geared at identifying and examining gender biases within the primary school classroom setting.
Speaking at a recent JIS Think Tank, Project Director for the EEH project, Dr. Jean Beaumont, explained that the programme looks at teaching strategies, alternatives to the classroom layout, teaching materials, and other factors that may contribute to gender bias.
She pointed out that some of the story books that are used in schools contribute to gender bias as certain roles that characters play are associated with a particular sex. “You find now that with some of the new books coming out, writers have become very conscious so you find that roles are being spread across (genders),” she pointed out.
Another example, she cited, involved a teacher assigning certain duties only to a particular sex. This, Dr. Beaumont explained, subtly sends out a message that only boys can do certain tasks while the girls are required to do others. She added that the teacher’s decision or choice in this scenario may impact the kinds of responsibilities the child takes on.
To further examine the role of gender in the classroom, the Project Director informed that a few schools have been studying the effects of single sex classes.
This grew out of the observation that when a question is asked in class, the girls would usually be the first to raise their hands to respond, whether the answer is right or wrong.
Dr. Beaumont informed that the conclusions drawn after observing an all boys’ classroom setting was that “the boys knew the answer but they reasoned it out before they raised their hands” and so took a longer time to respond.
She noted that while the girls reacted immediately when a question was asked, the boys thought through the answers first.
The Project Director said that the overall sensitization programme would assist participants in examining gender behaviour and gender biases and would seek to identify methods to address these.

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