Home » Human Rights » Let’s Curb Gender Stereotyping in Schools

Children should be encouraged to study what really excites them, not to be forcebly pushed to certain subjects preferred for them by parents and teachers.

Many parents and teachers fail to encourage good subject choices in a gender neutral way.

In most cases, girls prefer to take subjects such as English, ShonaNdebele and Geography at secondary level, whereas boys opt for Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics or Economics.

A teacher at a private college in Harare said “maybe girls just don’t like Mathematics and Physics”.

She seemed not to grasp the fact that parents and teachers’ subject choice proposals are contributing to gender stereotyping.

Teachers and parents’ assertiveness reinforces the fact that schools tend to educate in ways that conform to gender stereotypes, hindering both boys and girls from realising their full potential.

There is a general belief, which is totally mistaken, that girls are less academically given than boys. This perception is one that society holds due to socialisation and you will find that, subjects in schools are often allocted according to gender.

“I was told by one of my teachers that girls can’t do Mathematics”, said Mildred Shava, a Lower Six student in Chitungwiza.

Gender stereotyping through academic subject choices and occupations is prevalent in the country as evidenced by the big number of girls who take arts subjects.

It appears that these girls select to study subjects which they have been made to believe are “feminine” when offered the same choices as boys.

Girls seem to be inclined towards jobs that are perceived as appropriate for women like nursing, teaching, domestic work, clerical and secretarial work.

Even textbooks both in primary and secondary schools buttress gender stereotyping. They portray girls and women as mothers and housewives and there are no instances in which men are shown participating in domestic or household activities.

The books do not show the reality, nor the diversity of gender roles and activities which exist in the world today.

This gender stereotyping in the education sector relegates a big percentage of the population to the dustbin of literacy. With attitudes like this, we are unlikely to ever see schools close these gender gaps.

Gender inequality in education also manifests itself in areas of study chosen by men and women at tertiary institutions, leading them to particular careers. This is shaped by cultural and societal factors, which classify fields of study as “male” or “female”.

Despite affirmative action initiatives, women’s enrollment at tertiary level is lower than that of men.

According to the Sadc Gender Protocol 2013 Barometer, women were 40,7% of students enrolled in technical colleges in 2010 and 42,1% of the students enrolled in tertiary institutions.

The government’s target for women in tertiary education is 50% by 2015.

There is a need to create environments in schools whereby teachers do not suggest gender-based subject choices.

Education authorities too should make sure this does not happen by insisting that schools provide data and monitor subject choices.

Government should also make sure the national education system does not permit these imbalances to continue.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard