Female teachers' religious and cultural identities and gender equality in classroom practice
Given the continuing imbalances and current crisis with regard to gender-based violence in South Africa, the education of learners with regard to gender-based issues has been identified as critical. The South African school curriculum includes the compulsory subject, Life Orientation, which explicitly includes human rights issues such as gender equality. While official education policy documents promote gender equality in accordance with South Africa‟s Constitution and Bill of Rights, the teaching-learning thereof is not adequately articulated in classroom practice. This study seeks to explore this discrepancy. The study is located within a feminist paradigm, the common aim of which is to challenge gender inequalities in society and contribute to the transformation of the lives of women. Literature was reviewed and provides clarification of the concept of gender equality, and in particular, in the context of education and schooling, and subsequent classroom practices. Sociological theories underpinning the construction of identity, together with a psychological approach, namely the Dialogical Self Theory, complemented by the concept of „identity capital‟, construct the theoretical framework and the lens through which to analyse the data. In keeping with the feminist research paradigm, narrative inquiry is the preferred research methodology. Methods for data collection include self-administered questionnaires, written narratives and semi-structured, individual, face-to-face interviews. Nine female teachers of Life Orientation, teaching in six different schools, in four provinces in South Africa, voluntarily participated in this study. Employing narrative analysis, the crystallised data are presented in nine individual portraits. Each of these is analysed and discussed according to the concepts of the theoretical sociological and psychological framework. The data analysis gives insight into the selected teachers‟ understanding of gender equality, the position in general of women in their religious and cultural discourses, and their own positioning in their personal, social and professional domains. The findings of this study show that the strength of a teacher‟s „identity capital‟ informs her gender identity transformation. Increased extent and strength of „identity capital‟, enabling the articulation of gender identity transformation in every domain of their lives, has the potential of developing teachers' classroom practice into classroom praxis. Effective teaching-learning about gender equality has the potential of informing the development of their female and male learners and to be transformative for South African society. This study contributes to research on teacher identity, the development of their normative professionalism, and teaching-learning in classroom practice. The findings also inform a broader international SANPAD1 research project, (2010 – 2012). Recommendations for further research include issues relating to professional teacher education programmes, focusing on extending and strengthening teachers' „identity capital‟ as the core stimulus for the development of teachers' normative professionalism.
- Education