Gender and its expressions: equality in education

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How can teachers create a safe and all-inclusive environment for all students? How can they ensure equal opportunities for all individuals to access quality education free from bullying and violence stemming from gender stereotypes? Learning and other social experiences help to shape opinions, and school education therefore plays a key role in tackling gender inequality, homophobia and transphobia.

Mind the gap between science and girls

Gender stereotypes can influence the behaviour and practices of teachers. According to the Council of Europe, “Studies show that many of the school textbooks used in European countries include stories and images that reflect a stereotyped portrayal of the role and activities of women and men, girls and boys.” This can contribute to the under-representation of women in work sectors like science and industry.

The Mind the gap project recognises the need to encourage more girls into STEM subjects, which are traditionally male dominated. The project is a consortium of five partners from the Netherlands, Spain and the UK, and its main aim is to address the ongoing skills gap in these sectors within the EU, and especially the shortfall of women and the increasing STEM drop-out rates of girls.

In the two years (2014-2016) of this Erasmus+ funded project, teachers worked with girls aged 16-18. They encouraged them to gain STEM qualifications, tackled early school leaving by inspiring young women to continue their education, and tried to reduce the gender gap in STEM, by raising awareness. The project website provides practical tools for teachers in its resources and Learning Hub sections, in English, Dutch and Spanish. 

The following video shows how the project provides resources to design, participate in and facilitate Career Circles events. 

IGLYO: The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Youth & Student Organisation

IGLYO aims to empower its members to ensure visibility of LGBTQI youth and student issues. The organisation is funded by the European Union, the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe, and the Government of the Netherlands. 
Its main activities include conferences, study sessions, training seminars and workshops. The organisation has many activities and resources, including: 

The LGBTQI Inclusive Education Index

The index upon completion will present data on inclusive laws, policies and practices from Europe. The purpose is to provide a ranking of each of the Council of Europe member states’ education sector, evaluating the actions they take against violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and looking also at education policies, teacher training and national curricula. The purpose is to highlight good practices and create benchmarks for the other countries. 

The Inclusive Education Teachers’ Guide

In 2015, in cooperation with the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), IGLYO produced a guide for teachers in schools across Europe, with the goal of increasing teachers’ capacity to foster an inclusive learning environment. The report demonstrates the negative impacts of homophobia and transphobia on pupils and highlights strategies and classroom activities to create safe learning environments.

Shaking the Habitual: Norm-Critical Approaches to Gender in Early Childhood Education Settings

The eTwinning and Erasmus+ project, Shaking the Habitual, is a collaboration of preschools from Iceland, Sweden and Italy. The project focuses on working with gender and equality in preschool, reaching out not only to the school staff, but also to the children, caregivers and parents. One of the main aims is to give children the opportunity to think outside the box and help them become norm-critical.

By examining the existing practices within preschools, the project aims at strengthening preschool teachers in working with gender and equality, helping them address these subjects in a positive and constructive way and therefore strengthening preschools’ important work towards equality.

The project will end in September 2017, and aspires to develop practical tools for teachers, caregivers and parents, for working with gender and equality in preschools, a network of informed and interested preschool educators, and a checklist for school staff that will ensure that gender equality is upheld when presenting information and images to parents/caregivers.

So far the project has inspired the creation of a children’s book, “questoquello” (Neither this nor that) by the Italian partner of the project Progettinfanzia Bassa Reggiana. The book, available in Italian and English, was done in cooperation with preschool children to help discuss present norms in society.

Further information on this topic:

To discover ongoing and past EU-funded projects in school education, please go to the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform.