In a bid to eliminate representations that reinforce gender stereotyping and role classification in society, Kerala is all set to undertake a gender audit of school textbooks in the present curriculum.
As the State transitions into a knowledge economy, social justice and equality that underpin a progressive society assume more importance. Prevalence of gender inequality in education is seen as a major barrier to the progression course of the sector.
Being a primary tool of learning, textbooks play a significant role in forming values and attitudes. However, in the absence of accurate depictions, they can also lead to various biases. It is against this backdrop that the gender audit of school textbooks is being taken up on the directions of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan through the Vidyakiranam Mission and being implemented by the State Council of Educational Research and Technology (SCERT).
The State has already achieved gender equality in school enrolment, with nearly half the children in schools being girls. The council, though, wants to ensure that gender equality is maintained in textbook content and design, besides when the content is reviewed too.
As a first step, the SCERT organised a preliminary online discussion with experts from around the country recently. The experts’ feedback will be consolidated and a draft note circulated among them. Next, a national-level workshop with the participation of the experts is planned at the SCERT in the second half of May.
Since no attempt at textbook audit has been made in the State earlier, the council will look at models elsewhere such as those in Maharashtra and those done by non-governmental organisations in Delhi and Rajasthan, and create a group in the State that can take up the job.
The State school curriculum includes 563 titles. Since the gender audit of all of them is not possible in a short span, a random analysis of one or two titles from classes 1 to 12 will be held. The result of this analysis will guide the preparation of new textbooks as part of the curriculum revision that is in its initial stages.
Gender-friendly textbooks alone will not be enough. Teachers who conduct classroom transactions will also need to be provided training to make them gender sensitive.
Besides textbooks and learning materials, an audit of learning processes, school and class environments, regulations on school campuses, utilisation of campus space and facilities, and participation in school democratic processes will be held in the second stage.
SCERT officials say not just a check-list but on the ground observation too will be required if the audit is to be completed in its true sense.
The school textbook audit follows a gender audit of anganwadi textbooks and learning materials by the Women and Child Development Department.