Have you ever been surprised listening to two boys or girls having a conversation in which roles are differentiated by sex? How common is this in today’s society?
Gender stereotypes and biases are built in childhood and limit the future of youth . Furthermore, they are intensified through study plans, teaching materials and practices or relationships with family and peers.
Coeducation in Spain began to be implemented in the 1980s . It does not only mean that boys and girls share spaces, but that a coeducational pedagogy is expressly favored: egalitarian, that values diversity, emotional and sexual, and that prevents any violence between equals and, of course, gender violence.
Within the framework of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, this goal is number 4. It focuses on ensuring inclusive, equitable and quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Sexism in the classrooms
Sexism in classrooms appears in the attitudes, values and behaviors that society, in general, and families and teachers, in particular, attribute to girls and boys based on gender. There is still a set of stereotypes distributed according to sex that create inequalities based on biological issues and ignore the new social reality.
Equality education pays special attention to the elimination of these sexist stereotypes. Avoiding any type of gender discrimination promotes a positive climate in the classroom and improves coexistence , cooperation, mutual respect and personal relationships among the peer group.
We know that school is an important agent of socialization; Socialization is what forms the concept of gender identity. But the school not only socializes based on the manifest curriculum (the set of contents that are transmitted to students according to educational legislation), but the curriculum that we call “hidden” takes on special importance . This is what is developed implicitly and is made up of norms and values that are transmitted to the students.
School is not only a space to acquire knowledge, but it can also become an important space for raising awareness and detecting gender violence. Coeducation is the most effective way to prevent gender inequalities.
What do teachers need?
Different studies show that teachers still have shortcomings and need to understand and learn to apply the skills to detect and intervene in matters of equality at different educational stages. Knowing the process of creation and transmission of sexist stereotypes and their influence on the construction of thinking and the training of boys and girls is essential, as is the creation of spaces free of sexism and gender violence.
The role that educational centers can play in this matter can be grouped into two important areas.
The first of them is based on prevention, on education in and for equality, through the different subjects and internal actions of the centers: workshops, programs, etc.
The second has to do with its role in detecting gender violence and its positioning and action in this regard.
Experts point out three keys to take into account for equality education:
- Language expands imaginaries: words are the main vehicle of the learning process. In childhood, boys and girls come into contact with everything they learn at school through language. It is important to opt for inclusive and non-sexist language that recognizes and makes human diversity visible.
- Teachers as a reference: education is much more than the transmission of content. The educator is a reference of authority for his or her students who guides, sets limits, and instills respect and trust. Coeducation means showing models and references of what we want to recognize. In addition, we can offer desirable models that accompany growth in childhood and adolescence, so that they learn to relate positively and resolve their conflicts assertively.
- The critical look and humor: we must prevent the younger generations from reproducing the sexism that is transmitted daily through different socialization channels such as television, advertising, literature or music. It is important that youth learn to critically analyze the information that comes to them. Asking yourself questions, knowing how to interpret messages, questioning whether or not they are valid for your own experience and looking for others that better adapt to reality is a great co-educational task.
A coeducation that truly helps us advance as an egalitarian society must take care not only of the transmission of information and content, but also of teaching how to feel, how to live, how to relate, how to express ourselves, how to choose, how to listen, how to be listened to and listened to, to gain autonomy and respect ourselves.
Author Bios: Ana Isabel Agustí López is Coordinator of the Master in Teacher Training and Ana Rodríguez Martín who is Vice Dean of the Faculty of Educational Sciences both at the International University of Valencia