Sexism widespread in school textbooks: UNESCO report
An illustration from a textbook distributed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006. (GEM report)
Published Tuesday, March 8, 2016 11:19AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, March 8, 2016 2:26PM EST
Children are exposed to gender biases prevalent in school textbooks, which is undermining girls' education, according to a new UNESCO report.
Women are often portrayed in stereotypical roles in which they're depicted as accommodating and nurturing household workers, while politicians, scientists, engineers and law enforcement officials are overwhelmingly represented by males, the report states.
A Global Education Monitoring Report released on Tuesday, which also marks International Women's Day, says sexist attitudes are widespread in textbooks distributed to children in developing countries.
Plan International, a charity that promotes social justice for children in developing countries, says "institutionalized sexism" is driving girls out of school in some parts of the world.
Yona Nestel, Plan International's senior education advisor, said there are 63 million girls who are not in primary and lower secondary levels of school worldwide.
"Examples of girls as mothers, and as cooks, and not promoting girls' ambitions in curriculum and textbooks is squashing girls’ ambitions and dreams around the world," Nestel told CTV News Channel on Tuesday. "It's not showing girls that there are opportunities for them beyond what they're traditional taught to believe."
The report shows that in social studies texts in China, all sciences and soldiers were depicted as male while all teachers and the majority of service workers were female, according to a 2008 report.
In India, more than half the illustrations in primary English, Hindi, mathematics, science and social studies textbooks depicted only males, while a mere six per cent showed just females. In the six mathematics books used in primary schools, not a single woman is depicted as an executive, an engineer, a shopkeeper or a merchant.
The report also notes that the problem persists in certain high-income countries, such as Australia.
Despite there being more females than males in the country, a 2009 study found that 57 per cent of the characters in textbooks were men and there were double the amount of men portrayed in law-and-order roles, and four times as many depicting characters engaged in politics and government.
UNESCO is inviting individuals to share examples of gender roles in textbooks, either positive or negative, as part of its #BetweenTheLines campaign.
Meanwhile, Nestel said teacher training is a powerful tool to keep girls in schools.
"(Teachers) are able to challenge these gender stereotypes in the textbooks and change the gender dynamics in the classroom, which then permeates outwards in the community."