Towards gender sensitive education

is a three-year long project implemented by five organisations from three EU countries in a strategic partnership: Masaryk University (Czech Republic), Gender Information Centre NORA (Czech Republic), Hungarian Women’s Lobby (Hungary), Eötvös Loránd University (Hungary) and Verein EfEU (Austria).

The main objective of the project is to enhance gender sensitivity of current and future teachers and to develop, pilot and disseminate a methodology for training in gender sensitive education. We will develop two 30-hour courses in gender sensitive education, one for current teachers and one for future teachers (students of faculties of education). Our target group is current and future lower secondary school teachers, i.e. teachers of pupils of age 11-15. The project priorities include social inclusion by addressing the issue of gender diversity in classroom, and strengthening the teaching profession by supporting teachers in dealing with diversity in the classroom.

The training elaborated within the project will enable teachers to recognize their own explicit and implicit biases and how these biases affect their classroom behaviours. Additionally, teachers will receive explicit training in confronting children’s biases, so that they will reduce peer policing of gender normativity. Participants will be provided with concrete tools and techniques relevant to gender sensitive education that they may use later in their school practice. The elaboration of the course will be based on a small scale ethnographic study in schools, focus groups with teachers and on the analysis of the actual policy context in the respective countries. The participants of the pilot courses will take an active part in the elaboration of the courses and respective materials, so that the educational outcomes will respond to the actual situation and to the needs of the target group.

Gender differences are often taken for granted in the school environment, but gender stereotypes have a strong influence on the achievement of students, and if teachers are not sensitive of issues related to gender, the classroom environment can reinforce sexist patterns in students’ everyday lives. The goal of this project is to help teachers be reflexive of the existing gender order and gender stereotypes in society and their own biases, and act against this order.

The project brings together three countries which are close to each other geographically and historically but within the gender issue they have very different political and social contexts. The project aims to develop courses which will be applicable in all EU member states. Therefore the development and piloting process needs to be carried out in several states in order to prevent national characteristics from becoming too dominant.

On European level, there are a lot of educational materials in relation to Human Rights Education, but slightly less about gender sensitive education that consider the different European contexts. In Hungary, the topic of gender is not integrated into the curriculum, and there are no courses on gender sensitive education for teachers. In the Czech Republic there is substantial material for teachers in gender sensitive education, but the key problem is in the resistance on the part of the teachers to the topic as such. In Austria, the fact that gender equality is part of the curricula does not guarantee its implementation at schools and in classes. Implementation is left to the goodwill of the school and the teachers. It seems that gender stereotypes still exist and gender knowledge of teachers is based on theoretical assumptions about gender differentiation. This perception is also supported by experiences made by gender-trainers in advanced teacher training.