Non-Sexist Pedagogy – What does it mean?
Guest Blogger: Jenny Sung, CoDev Intern
When I first heard the words “non-sexist pedagogy”, I assumed that I knew what it meant based on the definitions of each word. On Dictionary.com, sexism is defined as “attitudes or behaviours based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles” and “discrimination based on person’s sex, restrict opportunities”. Pedagogy is defined as
“function or work of a teachers, teaching” and “art or science of teaching education; instructional methods”. By combining these definitions I created a definition of non-sexist pedagogy or NSP, however; as I continued to see these words reappear in various reading materials at CoDev, I questioned how instructional methods could be sexist. I also wondered about the role of NSP towards gender equality. Here is what I was able to find out.
NSP is an approach to teaching that brings gender issues to the forefront to create changes towards equal gender relations. As more women took on leadership roles in Central America, they realized the importance of taking their equity focus towards developing teaching methods that empower students and promote gender equity. The teaching methods are built on values of equality, inclusion and transformation. NSP programs are being created with a great emphasis on inclusion. In fact, NSP is also referred to as non-sexist and inclusive pedagogy. By including the word “inclusive”, it allows the program to go beyond focusing solely on women’s rights and towards teaching methods with open and positive approaches for the rights of all minorities and the oppressed.
Currently in Central America, children and students are taught in a behaviourist approach where learning is acquired through observation and reinforcement. This approach focuses on memorization and there are minimal discussions on gender-related issues. Textbooks contain examples and illustrations of traditional gender role stereotypes. NSP is trying to break the traditional depictions of gender roles in teaching materials and lessons and encouraging a constructive approach that focuses on students’ participation. Students are encouraged to contribute equal value in their education. CoDev supports its teacher organization partners in Central America with their work on the development of learning materials, teachers’ guides and the training of NSP programs. Here are some NSP activities currently taking place:
- Teachers’ organizations in Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador have teams of NSP promoters training their co-workers at national levels
- Federation of Central American Teachers’ Organiztaions (FOMCA) maintains a virtual resource centre for the region that allows teachers from throughout the region to dialogue, share innovations and download NSP lesson aides
- El Salvador’s education ministry has invited the women’s secretariat to establish an NSP diploma program at the Teachers’ Professional Development College (ESMA)
- Honduras has created, for middle and high school students, a sexual education program to create awareness of existing cases of gender-based violence and to address equality
NSP promoters have had some teachers who were resistant to the programs; however, through training programs, there have been cases where the same teachers change their opinions and personally take positive action towards gender equality. They realized that by improving gender equality, other social issues based on inequality, such as poverty, could be resolved. I also realized the crucial role NSP will play in the development of just societies based on inclusion and equality. Education is often referenced as the solution towards a better future and with NSP, children and students will have the proper tools and equal opportunities to create a progressive tomorrow.