Tue. Jun 25th, 2024
Darvesh Karim

Background

This is a reflective paper based on two visits and interactions which focuses on how gender reflects and is enacted in everyday life and practices of a private school in Gilgit-Baltistan. The school was loaded with almost 1000 students, almost an equal ratio of boys and girls with 32 teachers, 10 male and the rest were female. It was tried to critically examine and analyze the school, to explore three major dimensions lensed with gender, i.e., management in terms of assignments and tasks delegated to teachers and students, physical resources, and teaching-learning practices. However, it is strongly felt that these two visits were insufficient to have a deeper understanding of gender, which is, of course, a huge area to discuss, and schools have been known as the reflection of society (Leach, 2003). It is observed that schools along with the society and home normally continue to perpetuate the worst forms of gender discrimination and the abuse of basic human rights for both girls and boys. Schools help to reflect the values held by society (Leach, 2003). Therefore, covering all the aspects of gender in-action in two visits is unattainable. Hence, this reflective paper is limited to outlining the state of the existing practices and procedures in school from a gender perspective and a minor analysis with a conclusion is presented.

Thematic Observations

Management

Reflecting on this dimension it is observed that females were mostly managing the academic side while the administrative practices were done by the male members. Female students were mostly given leading positions like monitors and prefects. Assembly proceedings were similar to boys and girls except for the separate entry and exit points. Students were performing the same exercise in assembly but positioned in separate lines. Female students use to get five minutes earlier break and the tuck shop was having two windows one for girls and another for boys.

Physical Resources

The physical resources in terms of access to a library, labs, sports, water, canteen, restroom, teaching aids and displays, it is observed that a major portion of the playground was occupied by boys. There were separate washrooms, the seating arrangement in classrooms was separate and the displays were more male-oriented, however, for Science Labs & Library there were equal opportunities for both genders.

Teaching and Learning

The situation of teaching and learning in terms of language, teachers’ interactions, students’ interactions, curriculum contents and teaching strategies; it is observed that language used in class was not purely gendered biased, teachers used to call students either by their names or saying ‘students’, similarly, the syllabus contents were addressing as ‘students’ or ‘learners’. Female students were hesitant and low voiced and male students were active participants, while during interviews with two teachers, they told us that girls are active participants while boys are passive participants in classes, so this perception was contrasting in a real situation.

Analysis

Stereotyping

The initial observation was encouraging to note that boys and girls were treated almost equally without any big discrimination because it was also told that school discourages gender discrimination, however, it is felt that socially constructed ‘stereotyping’ was a major influencing factor in school and still there were some gaps between boys and girls. There were certain games such as volleyball and cricket where mostly the boys seemed engaged. The girls had a separate and small portion for games where they play table tennis; a light game as compared to volleyball and cricket.

All these practices depict that gender stereotyping is common in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is inbuilt while nurturing kids, where the culture and society have been influenced by centuries of a male-dominated lifestyle that places women in a subordinate role and subjects them to unequal treatment. While the concern for gender equality and equity condition in education continues to be now seen as a priority item in developed countries as well as in developing countries.

Specifically talking on ‘stereotyping’ in gender, which can be defined as a subjective perception or a picture in one’s head of the characteristics, roles, attributes, forms, or traits of a person which gradually in-builds through societal influence. It is felt among the teachers and students (with whom discussed) that their perception about gender was typically stereotyped. They didn’t seem to favour gender disparities, but their perception was telling another story, like ‘Girls take initiative’, ‘Girls are sensitive’, ‘Boys are strong’, ‘Boys are our heroes’, ‘Boys are reluctant and careless’

Therefore, there is an urgent need for the teachers and other stakeholders in this school to minimize the so-called stereotyping which is just the myths with no concern to the reality. On the other hand, it is also critical to bear in mind that teachers do not come into the classrooms as gender-neutral personalities. Teachers are likely to have internalized an exact gender ideology through years of socialization in both informal and formal settings.  However, it is believed that teachers are purposefully positioned to act as change agents at the classroom level to balance the gender disparities. But, to achieve this purpose a greater awareness among teachers and policymakers is very necessary, which will lead to more gender-focused and related interventions at the school level.

School Culture and Infrastructure

In many ways, school infrastructure and culture were not gender-responsive when it comes to meeting the needs of teenage girls. This can be a factor to widen the gap between boys and girls in classrooms. Firstly, the design of school desks and benches were not appropriate and suitable for girls to have easy access if seated with boys. Secondly, it was felt that the hesitation and low voice of girls can be rooted in the culture of this school that students must respond to teacher’s questions while standing or during teacher’s entry and exit from the classroom as a sign of respect. Girls may find all these unnecessary requirements as barriers for active participation in the learning process, because of their natural construction and process of the feminine.

Displays

School learning and teaching materials, especially displays, were dominant with masculine orientations that negatively impact girls’ self-esteem and confidence. When dealing with power issues, girls are cast in powerless or disempowering roles in which they cannot make any decisions without consulting male figures. After observing all this stuff, children acquire gender stereotypes about boys and girls. Therefore, sensitization of gender equality and equity is essential during the planning and displaying of the visual aids in school.

Conclusion and Recommendation

After going through the school visits, it is felt that if females are given leadership roles and trusted, they can become bold and play their role equal to males, which was reflected from the school principal’s behaviour and practice as she was a lady.

After having said that ‘schools are the reflection of society, now it is the time for school to reflect society a different image about a gender-equitable society. School is a major source that will help to trigger change. This will occur only when teachers and learners are assisted in adopting classroom level initiatives that reflect new images based on positive gender thoughts. To bring improvement in this regard, it is recommended that gender awareness workshops should be organized for teachers, parents and students in school, all students should be facilitated all sports and they all should be convinced to understand GENDER as:

GENDER
Grow togetherEliminate discriminationNeglect criticismDiscourage stereotypingEncourage equity and equalityRespect all

Reference

Leach, F. (2003). Practising gender analysis in education. Oxford, UK: Oxfam.

By Darvesh Karim

The author is an educationist and working as a Senior Instructor at the Aga Khan Univeristy.

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