33 SES 02 A, Gender Equality in Education
The authors on behalf of the Center for Research on Equality, Gender and Education, at the University of Iceland have been investigating practices and resistances towards gender equality in teacher education at the University of Iceland and in schools at three school levels in Reykjavik. The four-phase study has been presented in parts during recent ECER conferences. The aim of this paper is to look at the findings of the research as a whole in view of to important points of view: The first is the recent #metoo movement, which has been very strong in Iceland as elsewhere.
The second lens through which our study is viewed is the ECER 2018 conference theme Inclusion and Exclusion, Resources for Educational Research?
Equality issues are since 2008 by law a new subject of study in primary schools, and since 2011 equality is one of six pillars of education in the national curriculum guide for all school levels. Iceland has been ranked as number one in gender equality by the WER for eight consecutive years, 2009-2017. In 2009 our research center was asked by the president of the School of Education at the University of Iceland to investigate to what extent gender equality is included in the teachers education offered by the University. The study was extended to other educational sites than teacher education. The first focus was on teacher educators (phase 1), then on teacher education students (phase 2), thirdly the study focused on all school leaders at pre-, compulsory, and upper secondary level in the capital area, and finally on teachers in selected schools. So far three articles have been published (Guðný Guðbjörnsdóttir and Steinunn Helga Lárusdóttir, 2012; Guðný S. Guðbjörnsdóttir and Þórdís Þórðardóttir, 2016; Guðný S. Guðbjörnsdóttir and Steinunn Helga Lárusdóttir, 2017).
The most striking findings of this four-phase study is that gender equity issues are considered very important, they are generally not attended to, the knowledge of key gender related concepts is not strong, but there is great interest in more education on gender equality, especially on gender stereotypes and on gender related violence or harassment, not least on social media. Theoretically the views of essentialism, social constructivism and NPM (new public management) are in focus of the research and published articles.
Related to the latter finding is the strong #metoo movement, that exploded in Iceland in 2017, among women in politics, women in theatre and other arts, women in science, schools, medicine, in the police etc. etc. It is generally considered to be a groundbreaking revolution in Iceland, and many groups and organizations consider ways to react. The role of schools is considered important by many, so this paper is devoted to connecting the findings of our the four-phase study with the ideas about fighting sexual harassment and the #metoo movement.
The main questions of this paper are:
1. What are the main findings of the recent four-phase study on gender equality in education in Reykjavik?
- What are the policy implications of this study for education on equality and gender issues at all school levels, also in view of the #metoo movement and in view of the of inclusion/exclusion?
This paper is anlytical in the sense that it is discussing findings of a finished study and its relevance for the demands of the #metoo movement and for educational policy, particularly in Iceland. The focus will be on each of the research questions at a time. The methods used in the finished study are twofold: a survey questionnaire was administerd both to teacher education students at the univeristy of Iceland (phase 2) and to all principals of preschools, compulsory schools and upper-secondary schools in Reykjavik (phase 3). The study among the school leaders, is among the first focusing on school principals and gender equality issues in Iceland and possibly worldwide, investigated how gender issues are being dealt with in schools, as described by school leaders and to learn about their attitudes, knowledge and interest, regarding gender equality issues. An online questionnaire was sent to all leaders of pre-schools (N=78) and primary schools (N=43) in Reykjavik, Iceland and to all school leaders of upper secondary schools in the Reykjavik metropolitan area (N=14). The formal response rate was 68%, or 92 of 135 responded, but many questions were not answered including background questions which made detailed analysis difficult. The results were calculated and analysed by our research institute, via spss, excel and power point. Open questions were content analysed, for example what was being done now on gender issues and what was considered most important to do. The study among student teachers used a similar kind of a questionnaire, that was given to students in the School of Education (N=254) with focuson those in teacher education (N=166). Secondly focus group interviews were taken with the teacher educators at the University of Iceland (phase 1) and with teachers in selected schools (phase 4). It was intended to use focus group interviews also for the principals, but that turned out impossible. These interviews were all taped and analysed verbatim according to the themes of importance. The results of this four-phase study that was done from 2012-2018 are discussed in this paper around the two research questions. How the clear demand for change that the findings are calling for, are in tune with the new demands for changed gender relations in view of the #metoo movement and the missing gender inclusion found can be relaed to the school policy in Iceland and to inclusion/exclusion theme of this conference
The findings suggest that generally equality is understood in a wide sense and in spite of legal and curriculum obligations, gender-inclusion is often ignored. Even if the respondents believe they have sound knowledge of some gender related concepts there are reasons to fear that their knowledge and attitudes is inadequate for change especially among student teachers. Therefor it is not surprising that there is considerable interest in having more education relating to gender issues in schools, particularly responding to young people’s complaints about sexual harassment. The most urgent gender issues mentioned are, changing gender stereotypes, fighting gender violence and gender related harassment in social media. After years of education policy on inclusion and school for all, besides NPM, in Iceland, gender-inclusion has not been visible in spite of curriculum demands. This has been criticized and the findings of our study suggest that respondents are worried that sexual violence is not discussed enough in schools, including harassment on social media. Pupils have complained openly about this and school leaders are eager to respond. In 2017-18, the #metoo movement burst out in Iceland among women in most spheres including politics, the performing arts, schools, academia, as well as disable women the increasing number of immigrants. They have all published their stories on closed websites. Now there is a demand for a cultural change in gender power relations that ought to reach schools. The Icelandic school policy on inclusion, difference and school for all, has focused on a wide equality concept, not least because of the situation of immigrants and refugees. Now there is an opportunity to combine this double demand in Iceland and focus on education for changed gender-relations, inclusion and equality for all, both in terms of policy and education at all levels. Most likely an international effort is needed.
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