Why do we need a new social contract between
women and men?
The on-going struggle to improve women's lot,
and the abundant legislation in place at national and international
level to ensure equal opportunities have, in practice, failed to
achieve sufficiently rapid progress. Serious disparities in
fundamental areas continue to exist between the two sexes. These
compromise human rights for both women and men, including the right to
participate fully as equal partners in all aspects of life. These
disparities also have consequences for our societies, which are
consequently too often deprived of women's contribution in the
public arena, and men's contribution in the private sphere.
These disparities eventually result in various
forms of dysfunction that impact on women's and men's lives, and
will tend to be perpetuated unless we succeed in bringing about a
change in the relationship between women and men and in involving men
into the struggle.
Consequently, it is necessary to take steps to
overcome gender inequalities and give practical form to a new social
contract between women and men.
The fact is, it is no longer enough to combat
discrimination or fight for power-sharing between the sexes. We must
ask what may be lost if women and men do not become involved in
building a democratic society, and what kind of democracy does not
ensure balanced participation by its two main components.
It is clear that the existing gender model or
social contract has proved inadequate in responding to collective
needs and must be replaced by a new contract that can produce a
society based on partnership and the equal distribution of rights and
responsibilities between women and men. Such a contract would be
inclusive, but would be based on both sexes' contributions, reflect
their respective needs and be capable of restoring their full rights
This model aims to build a society in which women
and men will participate more equally in all spheres and will share
family responsibilities, work and power. In short, a new model,
capable of meeting the needs of contemporary women, men and society.
As was emphasised several times during the seminar, this is a
What is education's role in the process of
building a new social contract between women and men?
In recent years we have witnessed a significant
increase in the standard of education reached by young women and girls
and growing numbers of young women in higher education.
The existence of mixed-sex education in many
countries and the improvement in women's general position with
regard to education are resulting in a situation where we frequently
confuse these facts with a genuine democratisation of education.
However, whilst acknowledging the importance of
formal equality, we cannot forget that it still serves to legitimise
the disparities between women and men with regard to vocational
guidance, training, employment, participation in society as a whole
and, in particular, decision-making; it ascribes these disparities to
a natural imbalance in gifts and skills, dependant on sex or social
group, and perpetuates them.
Schools do not exist in isolation from the
society around them: they transmit that society's models and, since
society is characterised by discrimination against and domination over
women, these models are inevitably repeated in schools. Accordingly,
the absence of formal discrimination is insufficient to guarantee that
the school system is a vehicle for de facto equality.
The process of social change must be speeded
up, and schools can be powerful agents for change.
It is only by promoting genuine co-education
throughout the education process that we can achieve equality between
girls and boys and prepare them for the future and their role as full
This prompts us to consider the role of teachers
As mentors, or as models with whom pupils
identify, teachers can become agents for perpetuating systems
that practise gender-based selection or agents for social change.
We need to involve schools and the various
participants in the educational process in combating stereotyped
images of femininity and masculinity, so as to enable each individual
to make real choices: this involves learning new roles, based
only on each human being's individuality, for the purpose of greater
and better participation by women and men at all levels of family,
professional and social life.
A comprehensive pedagogical challenge
This task cannot be viewed as a supplementary
subject, that might or might not be covered by the school depending on
interest, time, financial resources, or the goodwill of all those
involved in the educational process. It is a comprehensive teaching
challenge which must be taken up by all who wish schools to be
places that enable girls and boys to enjoy genuinely equal
opportunities for participation in society.
This is not a question of creating new school
subjects, but rather of developing a new approach to teaching,
integrating these new objectives at all levels, in all contexts and in
all subjects, each of which will enable various aspects of this issue
to be covered and which, taken together, will contribute to a through
reappraisal of current and future female and male roles and the
exercise of democratic citizenship.
No-one will wish to change until they have felt
the need for change, analysed the underlying reasons for this need and
created the circumstances for change. But teachers often believe their
teaching is neutral. They must therefore be enabled to “reformulate
the universal model presented to them as neutral, but which is
impregnated by gender”.
Accordingly, our primary objective should be to
encourage teachers and pupils to think, and to make them aware of
their role as agents for change.
Valuing equality and diversity
Equality between women and men is a requirement for
justice, democracy and respect for human beings. However, we
frequently forget that these human beings are women or men.
Accordingly, they are not neutral. Women and men are equal beings, but
are not identical, just as women's and men's realities are not the
same, with differences existing within each sex. Respect for
equality implies respecting these differences not ranking either
higher than the other.
The way in which each society perceives and
treats women and men, assigning them different roles, results from a
social construction of gender. This social construction not only
impacts on women's and men's lives, it also influences how
institutions operate. The school institution is no exception.
We frequently hear that “our education system
does not discriminate. In fact, it helps girls more, since they do
better than boys in school and account for the majority of those
completing higher education every year”. Teresa Pinto has reminded
us that this question of girls' success, sometimes considered the
“central question of inequality between the sexes” can lead to
educational systems focusing their efforts on “improving boys'
results”, rather than ensuring sustainable success for girls in
terms of their transition from school to working life and their
“participation in political and economic decision-making”. In
other words, ensuring that their academic success is reflected
in social success, and thus helping to reduce the gulf between
these two forms of success.
The fact is, education systems rarely
discriminate formally between young people as boys and girls. In many
countries, schools are mixed and both the curricula and teaching
standards are the same for both sexes at all educational levels.
Simultaneously, however, schools obliquely and subtly replicate
traditional models for attributing social roles and depictions of
masculinity and femininity. By drawing attention to the process of
school socialisation, Teresa Pinto helps us move beyond the
over-simplistic discourse of academic success or failure, and adds a
third dimension to our analysis, namely the concept of educational
Discussion and research on integrating gender
equality into educational success could become key elements in
re-defining academic success in terms of social success
and in helping the education system assume its role in bringing about
Indeed, many elements influence academic
socialisation. They were amply emphasised by Elena Prus, and have been
raised time and again during the seminar:
Teaching materials, particularly school textbooks, which
Annamaria Dudik has also studied, contain several kinds of sexist
distortions, such as stereotyped values and images of femininity and
masculinity. These hidden messages are transmitted via the language,
illustrations and subject-matter that is used or omitted, and are
Several countries have carried out research into
the school textbooks used for different teaching levels and subjects.
Research shows that textbooks are fairly
conservative and often out-dated in terms of reality. Their characters
tend to be characterised in a stereotyped manner – female characters
are fragile, passive, submissive, while there is a strong
preponderance of male figures, characterised by sharper and stronger
personality traits. Girls and women are portrayed as objects rather
than subjects, in private rather than public contexts, with no
identity of their own – X's mother, X's sister, X's wife….
History teaching is based on men and their military
exploits and conquests, and women's presence and contribution
become invisible. In language teaching, the authors selected are
frequently male novelists or poets, with their particular view of
reality and experience.
The effects of these sexist distortions, even
unintentional, are inevitably reflected in the image that pupils build
of themselves and the depiction of the group to which they belong. It
is therefore essential that teachers analyse and challenge textbooks,
and find ways of overcoming the sexist distortions that they contain.
Particular attention should be paid to drawing up and selecting
Teachers' behaviour and expectations are a source of
unequal treatment for young girls and boys which must be recognised
and corrected, even if it is often unconscious and involuntary, at
least initially. Teachers do not usually believe that they treat girls
and boys in their classes differently and are accordingly surprised to
discover that they do not communicate with girls and boys in the same
way. At most, they may also recognise that they discipline boys and
girls differently, and are more likely to punish boys than girls in
the same circumstances. They may also admit that they sometimes give
boys more time and attention, but this is because boys make themselves
heard more often, speak to the teacher more frequently and cause more
trouble if they are not given immediate attention: girls tend to
disrupt the class less.
Teresa Pinto cites the example of mathematics to
illustrate the “Pygmalion effect”, i.e. how maths teachers'
differing expectations with regard to girls and boys could lie behind
girls' lack of success in this field, “considered in many
countries as an indisputable key to social success”
- and consequently to social progress. This is a subject area
which girls opt for less frequently than boys and in which they are
It is therefore important for teachers to analyse
their expectations and behaviour with regard to both sexes and to
understand that these factors influence their relationships with
pupils of each sex, and even pupils' success. They should be aware
of the patterns of interaction that they establish with each sex,
bearing in mind that the quantity and quality of teacher attention
that each pupil receives will necessarily have an effect on his or her
identity, behaviour, confidence, self-esteem, the learning process and
academic success. These comments are especially relevant with regard
to technical and scientific subjects.
Classroom organisation and unequal distribution of tasks
between boys and girls. Classroom decoration, especially for the
youngest age-groups, frequently includes posters showing children in
stereotyped roles, organised games often pit girls and boys from the
same class against each other, toys are reserved for girls or boys,
girls and boys are encouraged to take part in different activities or
to play an active role in the tidying and up-keep of classrooms and
playgrounds. It goes without saying that family habits do not always
facilitate the task of teachers wishing to influence the tide of
School organisation reproduces the traditional patterns in
the sexual division of labour and social roles: the clearest example
is the fact that the teaching staff are unequally distributed by
gender at each level and in each area of education, and the imbalance
between the total number of women in teaching and their representation
in school management positions and in management posts in Education
Academic curricula and subjects target girls or boys.
Whether or not these are formally differentiated for each sex,
practice shows that segregation often occurs. For example, home
economics and less competitive sports are reserved for girls, whilst
technical work usually linked with manufacture and the more
competitive sports are more frequently associated with boys.
In many countries, segregation of girls takes
place subtly, through curricular development in various subjects –
via the subject-matter taught, which ignores women's knowledge and
interests, and via the methodological approaches and language used,
which sometimes make it difficult for girls and boys to identify with
the subjects under consideration. A study of school options by sex,
particularly where scientific and technical subjects are concerned, is
revealing. Teaching curricula are not developed in a way that would
break down sexist social and professional representations.
Teresa Pinto drew our attention to research
confirming that this is not a problem of mixed or single-sex
education. Single-sex education would appear not to affect girls'
performance. The question of single-sex v. mixed education needs to be
Accordingly, particular attention should be given
to curriculum content, especially curriculum development, laying
greater emphasis on the emotional and social dimensions of learning,
seeking to implement changes in how these subjects are taught and
their image, so that more girls are attracted to them and are
guaranteed a greater chance of success.
Girls' and boys' preferences with regard to
teaching and learning styles should also influence the curriculum.
Adapting subject-matter to meet humanistic
concerns and including the social implications and human applications
of science and technology as an integral part of these programme might
be ways of helping to increase girls' interest in these areas and
their success in them. So long as the sciences are viewed as the study
of conceptual structures, and technology as the study of skills for
controlling and dominating the environment, with no need to establish
any kind of emotional link with the subject, these areas of study and
training will attract more boys. Indeed, we even believe that a more
humanist approach to the sciences and technology could help reverse
the academic failure shown by pupils of both sexes in these fields,
and generate greater interest in them.
A technological culture should be developed from
the first years of school education. This would mean making
technological training an integral part of training for basic and
primary education teachers.
However, academic curricula could also be a
starting point for changing attitudes and mentalities. If the
challenge is to be successfully met, this activity must be
integrated into all aspects of teaching practice, and discussion of
these themes should not be dissociated from the regular teaching
programme. Languages, history, mathematics, etc, are all opportunities
for teachers to refer to distinct aspects of the issue, each
contributing to an overall approach to the problem.
In considering diversity in study methods, we
should not overlook diversity in cultures and traditions, particularly
with regard to minorities, as Mihaela Miroiu reminded us.
Consequently, teachers should above all be
aware of their potential role in perpetuating and in changing
mentalities and attitudes.
This brings us to a question that has been
central to our discussions throughout the seminar, namely teacher
This is a decisive factor in promoting teaching
innovation and teacher trainers are key figures in ensuring that
equality is integrated into educational practice. Training should
enable teachers to analyse the whole of the teaching process and
school organisation from the perspective of gender, equality and
diversity. It should also contain elements enabling them to identify
and combat various forms of demonstrable sexism in schools, to react
when faced with discrimination and to help pupils to identify it.
Integrating a gender perspective into teaching
practice presupposes that initial and in-service teacher training is
based on the “critical model”, which recognises that education
reflects the social construction of gender and influences it in turn.
It requires awareness of this models' intrinsic educational and
Accordingly, it is essential to include
consideration of the issues of gender, equality and diversity in
curricula and programmes for initial and in-service teacher training.
Study plans for initial and in-service teacher
training should therefore contain explicit reference to elements and
“specific curricular areas” that will enable trainees to
reflect on the causes and results of the traditional division of
feminine and masculine roles. This means lessons that cover knowledge
and analysis of gender issues and are aimed at providing specific
training on co-education and equal opportunities; they should take the
historical emergence of the issue into account, and help teachers to
identify the social representations to which they are attached. They
should also deal with the topic's historical and sociological
Equality, diversity and gender perspective
should therefore be integrated into the various areas of initial and
in-service teacher training and the academic process, particularly
knowledge, both in terms of its production and its reproduction
and transmission; into teaching dynamics: teaching materials,
methodologies, interaction, evaluations; and into the institutional
culture: academic schedules and fields, leisure activities,
The shortage of trainers in these fields was also
highlighted on numerous occasions. Accordingly, training of trainers
should be developed.
For teachers, however, critical self-analysis and
analysis of the socio-cultural context in which they work are also key
factors in correcting discriminatory practices and in “the emergence
of a wide range of representations that can support a willingness to
take action”. Initial and in-service teacher training should
therefore lead to an analysis of their own identity and involve
examining and challenging their own beliefs, values, prejudices,
expectations, attitudes and concepts of femininity and masculinity,
both in terms of personality traits and the skills commonly associated
with masculinity and femininity, and the kind of relationship they
have with pupils of each sex.
Analysis of co-education can, in fact, become
a model for developing equal opportunities, relegating the debate
on single-sex v. mixed education to a secondary level. If we succeed
in achieving true co-education, this issue will become less relevant.
Several needs or recommendations emerge from the
discussions on the first theme:
adopting education policies and practices aimed at transforming
social gender relations in the processes of socialisation and
identity construction for both sexes.
developing research, in order to understand better the
socio-cultural processes that determine the differences or dichotomies
between girls and boys.
encouraging co-ordination between researchers and
teachers, in order to further curriculum development, innovative
pedagogy and teacher training that will develop their professional
skills profiles so that they can take account of equality and
encouraging co-ordination between researchers, teachers and
political decision-makers, so that education policies will reflect
achievements and needs in the equality field.
improving support for teachers, so that they can share
information and exchange experiences on in-class strategies, and
incorporate research findings on teaching procedures into their own
practice. This should also end the isolation still experienced by
those who attempt to develop equality.
preparing and disseminating teaching materials for
teacher training, based on the variety of ways of understanding,
learning and knowing, to help teachers incorporate analysis and action
for change into their teaching practice.
promoting projects to enable young people to be aware of
life's various dimensions.
putting in place “multidisciplinary networks of
specialists on questions of gender and equal opportunities, in
education and teacher training, at national and European level, supported
by Internet sites and the creation of databases on research,
projects and materials in this area”.
informing teachers about international agreements and trends.
promoting partnership between schools and parents.
Finally, “with reference to Women's Studies,
which play an important role in renewing scientific thought and
production, we must not forget (a) to take account of their
epistemological and methodological contribution to critical
questioning of the dominant scientific paradigms, particularly as
regards teacher training, and (b) to promote their legitimacy at
national and European level”.
Building new identities
The social construction of gender moulds the
collective imagination. It also moulds our way of being, resulting in
the development of gender roles, and these are everywhere associated
with asymmetrical and hierarchical value judgements. Masculine
personality traits and behaviour are seen as superior and more
socially desirable than those traditionally attributed to women. In
particular, they are taken as the norm and reference.
The acquisition of knowledge, models, values,
symbols and sex roles that influence the construction of our identity
is a process that begins at birth and continues throughout our lives.
However, the most intense socialisation period is during infancy and
school years, when the roles attached to gender assume their social
content and become structured. It is during this period that the
stereotyped ideas of masculinity and femininity can become more rigid.
However, women and men have an active role to play in the construction
of their gender identity, and gender relationships are open to
negotiation and change.
Schools should therefore contribute to this negotiation
and change by helping pupils become aware of the influences
exerted by adults and society in general regarding conformity with
gender roles. They can help pupils to think, analyse and
challenge these influences and, most of all, to exercise freedom of
The wide body of research and theory referred to
by Agnès de Munter illustrates how teachers' behaviour can
influence the development of pupils' identities. Experiences of
failure and the reasons given for it, together with teachers'
expectations, have a bearing on the way they deal with individual
pupils, influencing their self-image, behaviour, academic performance
and, of course, identity. She also highlights the need for teachers to
be aware of the effects of these behaviour patterns and the importance
of making pupils understand that they have options and are free to
challenge the models presented to them and expectations that are based
on stereotyped prejudices.
Accordingly, a teaching methodology should be
developed that will enable pupils to “enhance their abilities and
self-confidence”, so that they will be able to contradict the
various forms of conditioning to which they are subjected and make
This requires that initial and in-service teacher
training, and the media, pay particular attention to the impact of
teachers' expectations and communication styles on pupils'
identity-building and on the establishment of a new social contract
between women and men.
Elina Lahelma and Annamaria Dudik talked about
the relationship between the sexes in schools, and reminded us
of a dimension that is frequently overlooked when trying to identify
the school's role in building identities, namely, the informal
and physical environment, which is just as important as the formal
sphere. The way in which girls and boys use language and occupy school
time and space, together with many gender-related factors, have a
decisive impact on how sexuality and feminine and masculine identities
develop. For girls, this refers to the teasing and harassment to which
they are subjected on account of their sex. It is reflected in the
insults or humiliating behaviour addressed to girls in general or to
certain groups of girls, via physical intimidation or by restricting
their space or time for speaking in class.
Young boys are also affected. Men take themselves
as the norm, consider feminine personality traits and behaviour to be
inferior and refuse to adopt them. They also experience the
consequences of rigid and pre-conceived ideas of masculinity. This is
the main reason for the bullying suffered by boys and, perhaps, for
the rejection of academic success. Feminine and masculine identities
are conditioned, regardless of whether boys or girls experience these
forms of bullying directly.
“These practices are both forms of social
control aimed at maintaining separation lines between the two sexes
and an expression of male power” and of masculinity's predominance
over female values.
Indirectly, informal practices in classrooms and
playgrounds invade formal teaching and the learning process. Teachers
and other participants in the educational process are unaware of this;
pupils who are not themselves direct victims of these practices are
sometimes also unaware. Conflict, arguments between girls and boys and
sexist comments are more likely to be considered as normal and not
identified as bullying: where they are identified as such, the
difficulty of changing the subject or a lack of time tends to make
teachers adopt a neutral attitude.
If this kind of practice is to be checked or
eliminated, we cannot limit ourselves to an attitude of so-called
neutrality: we must be able to alter the entire school culture,
characterised as it is by gender. To do this, it is also important
that the presence of sexuality in schools be discussed in the context
of learning and teaching and that the topic of sexual harassment be
integrated into sex education.
Physical models reinforce gender construction.
Once again, gender stereotypes determine the models to which girls and
boys must conform, rejecting the diversity between and within the
sexes and shaping self-image, identity-building, gender
relationships and social integration. In seeking to conform to
continually changing models of femininity, girls subject their bodies
to changes that affect their identity development and frequently their
In this regard, physical education's influence
on these models has also been noted: this is one of the areas where
segregation continues to be most persistent, based on the biological
differences between the sexes.
Physical education lessons, sport, areas such as
schoolyards or extra-curricular activities enable young people to
develop co-ordination skills, persistence, initiative, leadership
skills and physical strength, and also contribute to developing good
health habits and the capacity for teamwork.
Good physical condition also has a positive
impact on intellectual and social development and on each
individual's self-image. Being able to control one's body through
mastery of a sport increases self-esteem, self-confidence and the
feeling of individual freedom.
However, pupils of each sex have unequal
opportunities for experimenting, showing their abilities to others and
enjoying positive experiences in these areas or fields. Frequently,
girls continue to be relegated to a limited number of sports, which
receive less support in terms of grants, equipment, subsidies and
This segregation reflects differing expectations,
which result in distinctive treatment for the sexes. Boys are
encouraged or even forced to take part in sports. They experience
constant pressure to compete and win. Success on the sports field
brings prestige among their friends and adult approval. At the same
time, girls often receive less encouragement to develop new abilities
and to take part in sports activities. They sometimes choose not to
participate, for fear of not conforming to the established body image
or performance ideal, with the adverse impact that we have seen on
identity development and reinforcement of prejudice.
In addition, we cannot overlook the fact that the
most frequently shown sports broadcasts favour men and undervalue
However, the body can also be a means of
affirming one's difference and defying the dominant norms.
Alternative youth culture is an example.
Language determines the structure of
collective representations and our way of thinking, and contributes to
building self-image. However, oral and written language is not
neutral. Here again, masculinity is not only valued, but is the norm,
grammar and our discourse become channels for the invisibility,
subordination, and even negation of femininity. As noted above, it is
therefore essential to analyse the ideological charge carried by
academic texts and language.
Analysis of communication forms between young
people shows a rejection of or even contempt for the communication
forms most commonly used by girls and women. Promotion of
traditionally male communication styles forces girls and women to
adopt strategies that are alien to them and that are damaging to their
As we have already emphasised, the majority of
our school systems are characterised by a body of knowledge that was
drawn up by men and by a ubiquitous masculine model that excludes
feminine experiences, interests and knowledge from academic culture.
Women's absence from historical subject matter, preparation
and interpretation means that their presence and contribution become
invisible, thus reinforcing their subordination.
Girls and boys are also evaluated differently
on the basis of gender stereotypes. Characteristics attributed to
boys are valued more highly than those attributed to girls, with
consequences for their evaluation. The same behaviour in girls or boys
gives rise to different interpretations by teachers, both as regards
discipline and academic success.
The debate on this sub-theme leads us to identify
the need to promote innovative projects on gender stereotypes and
pupil behaviour, representations of masculinity and femininity,
behaviour models for girls and boys, new identities for girls and
relations between the sexes, particularly as regards aggressive and
insulting behaviour, and to challenge the values attached to gender.
Promoting democratic citizenship
Integration of equality is essential if we are to
encourage young people to adopt the values of justice and
participation needed for the effective exercise of democratic
citizenship, the construction of private and public partnerships
between women and men, and democracy. However, this is far from being
common practice in education systems.
The choices made by both sexes in terms of
education, occupation and lifestyle are subject to strong cultural
pressures based on stereotyped concepts of femininity and masculinity.
These have repercussions on the distribution of family tasks and
responsibilities between the sexes, the division of roles in the
labour market and female and male participation in society in general
and decision-making in particular.
Young people are exposed to many socialisation
contexts that influence their willingness and ability to participate
and their understanding of the partnership that could exist between
women and men.
Participants at this seminar have mainly
considered three socialisation contexts: the family, school and
Mihaela Miroiu showed us the close link between
the way in which the male-female partnership is experienced in the
private sphere and how it is viewed in the public sphere when it comes
to promoting democratic citizenship.
Education for democratic citizenship begins in
the family. It is here in particular that children should be
educated for independence, freedom of choice, decision-making,
participation and assertiveness. In the longer term, however, girls'
and boys' family socialisation, focused on what she describes as the
“symbolic patriarchy” that dominates the private sphere,
frequently results in actual patriarchy in the public domain.
In family contexts, the values underlying the
education of each sex differ profoundly: girls are educated in a
spirit of obedience and hard work, while discipline, independence and
freedom of choice are more appreciated in boys.
The stereotypes associated with feminine roles in
the private sphere have a greater impact on perceptions of women's
public role than women's actual abilities to play a decisive role in
this area. Democracy and justice are regarded as values that apply to
the private rather than the public sphere.
Thus, the prejudices that underlie depictions
of the sexes and the values that guide their education influence how
girls and boys participate.
Ms Miroiu then asked to what extent schools train
girls and boys so as to provide them with equal opportunities in terms
of careers and participation in decision-making, and claimed that the
proposed model for teacher training is reactive and focused on
preservation of the status quo rather than emancipation.
Indeed, education for democratic citizenship is
not included in school programmes in many countries and, where it
exists, is confined to a specific school-subject and does not
necessarily cover equality explicitly.
What educational policies should be encouraged
to prepare young people to confront social changes and to promote
democratic citizenship in terms of gender partnership?
Carol Hagemann-White places education for
equality at the heart of an education for democratic citizenship that
will enable young people to respond to the needs arising from the
rapid changes that characterise our societies. This kind of education
calls for a wide range of changes in the educational process,
curricula and school culture.
Firstly, equality and other key democratic
concepts such as education for peace, citizens' private and public
responsibilities, diversity and intercultural relations should not be
perceived as secondary: they should be present in the rules
underlying education systems as objectives to be attained, and
should therefore be integrated into the content of teacher training
and inextricably tied in with a school's various subjects and
teaching practices. Rather than creating new subject areas and
allotting them a specific amount of time, teaching procedures and
methods need to be changed, and learning contexts should be
promoted that make the link between school and society and life.
Schools can create situations in which girls and
boys are likely to learn new skills that they have not learnt from
traditional forms of socialisation. For girls, these skills involve
team-work, presenting ideas, being competitive, occupying space, being
daring and using new territory, all skills that are needed in public
life. Boys need to acquire skills such as a greater sense of
inter-personal responsibility and the attitudes, knowledge and
abilities necessary in private life. Schools can train children for
partnership, shared decision-making that respects diverging opinions
and for their required contribution to social cohesion and justice.
Carol Hagemann-White also reminds us that
flexibility of thought, imagination, creative co-operation and the
ability to take initiatives are important skills for dealing with
changes in modern society and will be even more necessary in the
Citizenship is a learned role. Education for
citizenship, aimed at developing the knowledge and skills needed for
taking action, for confronting change and for partnership should
therefore be provided by schools, as a criterion for full exercise of
citizenship in a democratic context.
This involves acquiring knowledge about
democracy, the institutions that uphold it and contemporary history,
but primarily the creation of a democratic social culture. This
assumes a comprehensive approach to the subject, involving schools and
teaching practice; developing “projects that encourage initiative,
stimulate the wish to acquire skills and knowledge and establish a
relationship between learning and life”, giving priority to young
people's interests and the issues that affect our societies; and
valuing learning more than teaching. These projects can be carried out
as part of the multi-disciplinary curricular fields being developed in
Education for citizenship involves the
creation of learning contexts that enable young people to develop and
exercise democratic citizenship, and acknowledgment that young people
are agents for current as well as future social change.
We have seen that these skills and willingness
are acquired in the family and at school, but they are also acquired
through informal groups – students' associations, political and
religious groups and the like - or extra-curricular activities.
Extra-curricular activities provide an
equal number of socialisation contexts and play an important role in
this area, insofar as they enable pupils to have contact with diverse
realities and experiences that go far beyond educational programmes.
Being based on voluntary participation, they can tend to perpetuate
girls' and boys participation in separate activities, thus
reinforcing traditional images of the most appropriate roles,
vocations and behaviour for each sex.
It is still common to see boys dominating in
activities such as athletics, competition, school management,
practical activity workshops, technology classes and computing clubs.
One still frequently sees boys playing football in schools while girls
support one of the teams, or boys chairing students' associations
while girls fill treasurer's posts. In particular, we recognize the
longstanding contribution that students' associations have made to
forming the political class.
It is therefore essential to seek to minimise
these divisions and to encourage girls and boys to participate and to
learn to work together.
The role of the media in constructing,
disseminating and consolidating negative and stereotyped images that
influence the exercise of democratic citizenship and gender
partnerships was also addressed during the seminar. Here, teachers
must intervene to help pupils develop a sense of distance and analysis
with regard to the media.
How can schools educate girls for sustainable
success, or ensure their successful transition from education to the
labour market? How can they educate young boys to enter traditionally
feminine spheres, which are likely to develop in the future?
There is a correlation between the sexual
divisions of labour observed in the manufacturing sphere and in the
educational sphere. The social disparities that influence the
education system mean that removing premature academic options or
options likely to lead to gender segregation is not enough to ensure
far-reaching changes in the differences between girls and boys in
terms of academic orientation and vocational choices. In the same way,
mixed education or even co-education, legally instituted in several
countries but not necessarily implemented, has proved inadequate for
generating changes in the sexual division of labour, which is
reflected in different educational and vocational guidance for girls
The concepts of democratisation and mixed
education seem to give women sole responsibility for their choices,
and gender is viewed as a simple descriptive variable, although
statistics confirm the on-going inequalities between women and men in
terms of guidance, training and employment. Women are also perceived
primarily as a specific group, defined essentially in terms of their
family situation and reproductive role, which is commonly used to
justify their difficulties in vocational integration.
Research has shown that greater tolerance is
habitually shown to boys' independence and initiative and to their
independence vis-à-vis socially-imposed norms, while girls are more
constrained by these norms. Indeed, we believe that it is this greater
conformity to school norms that enables them to adapt better to the
school system, itself a vehicle for these traditions.
So, how can we break this vicious circle, how
can girls be encouraged to be ambitious, how can schools be changed so
that they become socialisation contexts that allow everyone to reach
the position in society to which they are entitled, irrespective of
Mentalities evolve slowly. These objectives will
be achieved only through the adoption of deliberate policy that
alerts all participants in the educational process to the necessity of
eliminating all forms of discrimination. This does not mean searching
out discriminatory intentions on the part of participants in the
education system but instead looking for factors that play a key role
in the wider processes of formulating vocational and educational
representations, so that, once they are identified, measures can be
taken to offer girls better vocational integration, in an world of
technological change and unemployment that tends to affect them more.
We know that preconceived ideas of what is
appropriate for girls and boys and representations of the roles to be
assumed by adult women and men often act as a filter, obscuring
alternatives that are seen as unsuitable, and are powerful
obstacles to freedom in choosing an occupation. Sexual roles often
influence an individual's interests and motivations. When the moment
of decision arrives, young people are usually unaware that their
aspirations, expectations and behaviour are strongly determined by
gender: their choice is be limited by ideas and interests that began
to develop long before school age, and is in fact the result of a long
process of interiorising their present and future roles. Many wrong
choices are made because the person concerned lacks self-knowledge.
Aspirations, perceptions of motherhood and
fatherhood, children's needs and demands, the mother's and
father's responsibilities and family, social and occupational roles
cannot be dissociated from the discussion of academic and occupational
choices. The very concept of guidance should be redeveloped, since it
should go further than traditional educational and vocational guidance
and focus more on building identities and developing aspirations. It
is important that all young people be supported in analysing their
values and motivations, broadening their horizons and contemplating a
wide range of options, irrespective of their sex, and that they are
encouraged to take an active part in this process.
Schools, teachers, educational and vocational
counsellors should therefore be able to counteract the effects of a
sexist socialisation that begins well before the first years of
school, by giving young people plentiful and diverse information on
these subjects and promoting discussion.
It is clear from examining the third theme that
we should promote longer-term and more comprehensive initiatives that
influence the entire school career and beyond, focused not only on
attitudes but also on results. We need innovative projects on
vocational teaching, academic training, extra- curricular teaching or
higher education; on subject options, lessons, academic study,
careers; on horizontal and vertical sexual segregation in the labour
market; on ways of entering the labour market. We should also invest
in teaching skills for life and for personal and professional
To quote Teresa Pinto again, citing the report by
the Council of Europe's Group of Specialists on Gender
Mainstreaming: “Gender mainstreaming is a fundamental strategy for
seeing gender equality as a new approach that enhances complementarity
and partnership between women and men in the sustained and humane
development of society and democracy”.
I should also like to repeat that equality
promotion should be an integral part of school development or
improvement plans, since equality can contribute to enhancing teaching
quality and joint quality of life for both women and men.
I will finish by referring to a sentence from a
report drawn up in the United Kingdom in 1975, which I believe is
still relevant to our discussions over the past two days.
“Change is inevitable in our society… We can
choose to bridge the gulf that exists between schools and the world
that surrounds them, or choose to widen this gulf: there is no other
That choice is ours.