Much has been said and spoken on ‘gender issues’. Since the turn of this century, India has discussed and debated on gender issues of a relatively lesser visible nature like workplace gender bias and sexual discrimination at homes and less about the mostly unnoticed gender bias at school. An average adult spends almost an eighth of his life in schools and classrooms and an average school going kid spends about seven hours a day in these institutions and it is here that the same children are often exposed to unchecked, unmonitored and very subtle forms of gender bias.
My personal experience of 26 years, teaching geography to 12th standard students has taught me a thing or two about reasons behind the social problems that I teach and talk on as part of my curriculum. It comes to me as no surprise and I am sure that anybody who observes this as carefully will conclude that gender bias now almost obviously seems to be the root of not all but most of the social evils and what’s even more evident is that it simultaneously is the consequence.
Classroom discrimination to comparing girls who talk loudly, instructing boys in class to not cry because they sound like the stereotypical ‘girly’ image of a girl in the mind of the biased person.
Teachers must understand that they themselves are gender ambassadors and what they do or say has a profound and lasting impact on young minds and how the students give shape to a gender identity inside their minds depends solely on how the teacher endorses his or her ideas on an issue involving a gender problem or the way they approach things on a practical level, trivial as it may seem but this is where most go wrong, students learn more than the teacher intends to pass on. Either intentionally or unintentionally.
Written by: Pratima Menon