Joint Paper Session NW 08 and NW 33
This paper reports on the initial phase of a 3-year (Jan 2019 – Dec 2021) funded study that explores the relationship between gender and schooling in Kazakhstan. While Kazakhstan has made great strides in expanding access to education and is close to achieving gender parity in schooling , women continue to be overrepresented in traditional areas of study and underrepresented in science and technology related fields (OECD, 2017), resulting in the concentration of women in feminized sectors of the economy with high prevalence of low-wages. The gendered labour outcomes and career choices, as well as a high incidence of gender-based violence (OECD, 2017) in Kazakhstan are linked to expected gender roles and unequal power relations (ADB, 2013).
There are obvious limitations of gender parity as a (sole) measure and indicator of gender equality. The term frames gender as a descriptive identification of girls/women and boys/men, reducing the ‘socially located experience of ‘becoming gendered’ into a reified, dichotomised and naturalised quantitative category’, limiting our understandings and theorisation of gender (Dunne, 2007: 501). In contrast to gender as a noun, as represented by the gender parity index, the proposed study draws on Butler (1990), to understand ‘gender’ as ‘always a doing’, performed within the constraints of particular social contexts. Such an understanding is supported by international educational research (e.g. Epstein and Johnson, 1998; Durrani and Halai, 2018), which highlights ‘gender as a social construction comprising multi-faceted and shifting identities’ (Leach et al., 2013: 3). Such a shifting notion of gender is particularly relevant to Kazakhstan, where the Soviet state used its policies in education and other domains to transform gender roles and construct the new socialist citizen in the pursuit of its economic, political and cultural interests (DeYoung and Constantine, 2009). Furthermore, because gender is a way of structuring social practice, it interacts with other social structures such as sexuality, age, class, ethnicity, religion and nationality. Institutions, for example, the family, the school, and the workplace, are key sites for the construction of gender relations and gender identities built on socially sanctioned power inequalities (Connell, 1995; Leach et al., 2013). As state and public institutions, schools are key sites where gender and other social identities are ‘developed, practiced and actively produced’ (Epstein and Johnson, 1998: 2). Furthermore, the school as an institution is characterised by a ‘gender regime’ constituted through everyday practices that construct a range of feminine and masculine identifications ranked in terms of prestige and power (Kessler et al., 1985). In addition, schools actively promote gendered identifications through the official curriculum and textbooks (Durrani and Halai, 2018). Indeed, a global review by UNESCO (2016a: 12) identified gender bias in textbooks as ‘one of the best camouflaged and hardest to budge rocks in the road to gender equality in education’.
UNESCO (2016b) therefore calls for a more nuanced notion of gender equality that takes into account how notions of masculinities and femininities impact institutional practices and norms and among other gender equality measures, is calling upon governments to review their curricula and textbooks to ensure the elimination of gender stereotypes and discrimination. While ‘better evidence-based knowledge and understanding of gender issues in and through education’ is pivotal to facilitate the realisation of gender equality (UNESCO (2016c: 12), research on the relationship between gender and schooling in Kazakhstan is non-existent. Although, Kazakhstan has embarked on extensive large-scale curriculum reform, Kazakhstani textbooks have not been subjected to gender analysis.
This paper, therefore, seeks to explore one central question: How is gender constructed in secondary school textbooks in Kazakhstan and to what effect?
The overarching research question is explored through analysis of mathematics, science, Kazakh, Russian, English and history/social studies textbooks used at secondary level. Secondary level is selected because while students’ gender identity formation begins much earlier, secondary schools are key ‘locations where students spend a great deal of time not only learning, but also navigating gendered identities’ (Davison and Frank, 2006: 152). This is also a time of rapid bodily changes linked to masculinities and femininities and a time when students make decisions about subject and career choices. Textbooks will be analysed textually and visually, with the analysis focused on the questions below: 1. To what extent different gender groups are included in text and visuals within the analysed textbooks? 2. What is the gender identity of the national icons within the analysed textbooks and what kind of masculinities and femininities are they associated with? What is absent from the gendered portrayal of the national icons? 3. How do the everyday characters in the textbook perform their gender identities? 4. What gender norms are represented in the analysed textbooks? What kind of masculinities and femininities are emphasised and what particular masculinities and femininities are marginalized or are absent? 5. What are the implications of the gendered norms constructed in the textbooks for gender equality in Kazakhstan?
As a first study of its kind in the context of Kazakhstan, it is difficult to anticipate findings in advance of the analysis. Nevertheless, intensive international evidence, including studies from Russia and some other post-Soviet countries indicate that textbooks in Kazakhstan would support, rather than subvert, the hierarchical gender relations that exist in the country. Nevertheless, by putting a spotlight on the construction of gendered identity formation in textbooks, the paper will offer useful implications for curriculum and textbooks. Additionally, the textbook analysis will help inform the next phase of ethnographically informed multi-site case-studies of secondary schools. The focus of which would be to explore gender relations in schools and the ways teacher and students negotiate with textbook messages related to gender.
ADB (2013) Kazakhstan Country Gender Assessment. The Philippines: Asian Development Bank. Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble. Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London and New York: Routledge. Connell, R. (1995) Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity Press. Davison, K. and Frank, F. (2006) Masculinities and femininities and secondary schooling: The Case for a gender analysis in the postmodern condition. In: Skelton, C., Francis, B. and Smulyan, L. (eds) The SAGE Handbook of Gender and Education. London: SAGE Publications Ltd (pp. 152-165). DeYoung, A. J., and Constantine, E. A. (2009) Re-gendered education and society in the newly independent states (NIS) of Central Asia. In: Gender, Equality and Education from International and Comparative Perspectives, Emerald Group Publishing Limited: 255-299. Dunne, M. (2007) Gender, sexuality and schooling: everyday life in junior secondary schools in Botswana and Ghana. International Journal of Education Development, 27(5): 499–511. Durrani, N. and Halai, N. (2018) Dynamics of gender justice, conflict and social cohesion: Analysing educational reforms in Pakistan. International Journal of Educational Development, 61: 27-39 Epstein, D. and Johnson, R. (1998) Schooling Sexualities. Buckingham: Open University Press. Kessler, S., Ashenden, D.J., Connell, R. and Dowsett, G.W. (1985) Gender relations in secondary schooling. Sociology of Education, 58(1): 34–48. Leach, F., Slade, E. and Dunne, M. (2013) Promising Practice in School-Related Gender-Based Violence (SRGBV) Prevention and Response Programming Globally. Report commissioned for Concern Worldwide. Dublin, Concern Worldwide. OECD (2017) Gender Policy Delivery in Kazakhstan, OECD Public Governance Reviews. Paris: OECD Publishing. UNESCO (2016a.) Textbooks Pave the Way to Sustainable Development. Policy Paper 28. Paris: UNESCO. UNESCO (2016b) Education for People and Planet: Creating Sustainable Futures for All. Global Education Monitoring Report 2016. Paris: UNESCO. UNESCO (2016c) Gender Review: Creating Sustainable Futures For All. Paris: UNESCO.
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