Gender bias, marginalisation and discrimination is a societal ill that all hands must be on deck to eradicate. A good place to start that is our classrooms so that as children grow, they are more considerate and approving of others without gender bias and unacceptability. No other gender should be seen as superior to the other. Children usually start developing their gender identity from around two years. They become conscious of the difference in their physical appearance. By age three, they can classify themselves as boys or girls while at age four, they already have a stable gender identity. Then they learn gender role behaviour, that is what a boy does and what a girl is expected to do and not do.
To prevent gender discrimination in our classrooms, we can follow these tips:
1. CREATE A FREE SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT WITH TOYS, BOOKS, SPORTS EQUIPMENT AND MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS THAT CATER TO EVERYONE
Don’t box girls and boys into what they can play with like assuming dollhouses and dolls are for girls and building bricks and engines must be for boys. Let them play with things of their own choice. Avoid restriction on toy usage.
2. AVOID CURRENT GENDER BIAS EDUCATION
We generally believe girls should just be neat in their work and appearance while boys are praised on their effort and ability. This stereotype is wrong and responsible for the lack of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. This trend can change through a bias-free classroom. The books have been carefully selected to avoid traditional presentations of gender and parenting roles.
3. TEACH ACCEPTANCE
Children must be taught to accept other people with a different background. Open-mindedness, acceptability and tolerance will make the world a better place.
4. USING INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE IS VERY IMPORTANT
Don’t just classify children into girls or boys, male or female. It is old fashioned. Words such as “you guys” is an example of gender bias.
5. THINK ABOUT YOUR CONDUCT
Avoid grouping children by gender. Let all classroom rules apply to all – irrespective of the sex. Have equal books on all sexes to create a wide exposure and normalise different gender for children.