CM(2001)92 Addendum / 761 / Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men - Abridged report of the 22nd meeting (Strasbourg, 9-11 May 2001)


Ministers' Deputies
CM Documents

CM(2001)92 Addendum (restricted) 19 June 2001
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761 Meeting, 18 July 2001
4 Human Rights

4.1 Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men - Abridged report of the 22nd meeting (Strasbourg, 9-11 May 2001)
Seminar “A new social contract between women and men: the role of education” organised jointly by the Steering Committee for equality between women and men (CDEG) and the Education Committee (CC-ED) on 7-8 December 2000

General Conclusions

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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 as citizens.

 

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 political issue.

 

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 citizens.

 

This prompts us to consider the role of teachers and teaching.

 

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.

 

“Gender blindness”

 

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 success.

 

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 social change.

 

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 rarely challenged.

 

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 textbooks.

 

-           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 less successful.

 

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 events.

 

-           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 Ministries.

 

-           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 studied further.

 

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 training.

 

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 social implications.

 

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 dimensions.

 

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, posters, decorations.

 

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 diversity.

 

-           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 choice.

 

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 “ethical judgements”.

 

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 health.

 

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 publicity.

 

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 women.

 

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 identity development.

 

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 informal groups.

 

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 future.

 

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 several countries.

 

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 and boys.

 

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 their sex?

 

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 equality.

 

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 choice”.

 

That choice is ours.



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