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Curriculum implications for gender equity in human rights education
Simmonds, Shan Robyn
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The Gender Equity Task Team’s (1997) report, Gender Equity in Education, recommends that further research be done to identify the practices perpetuating inequitable gender relations in classrooms and to provide guidelines for teachers and learners to understand the meaning of the gender issues presented in the curriculum (South Africa, 1997:14&16). This research study echoes some of the desires of The Gender Equity Task Team through an exploration that engages with the extent to which gender equity is enacted in Human Rights Education curricula. In particular, the aims of this research study were to; • contest and deconstruct the notion ‘gender equity’ from scholarly perspectives as well as from explicit curriculum, female teachers’ and schoolgirls’ narratives, so as to create an awareness of gender equity in society and curriculum; and • engage with Human Rights Education pedagogical approaches so as to consider the promotion of gender equity through Human Rights Education curricula. The aims of the study were explored through a theoretical framework that engaged with Human Rights Education -, curriculum -, feminist - and gender studies theories. The methodological framework was that of qualitative narrative inquiry. A purposeful sample consisting of South African national curriculum policy documents as well as secondary school female teachers and Grade 9 schoolgirls in semi-rural and inner-city environments was selected. Document research, semi-structured one-on-one interviews and narrative-photovoice were the data collection methods, and critical discourse analysis the analytical framework. These theoretical and methodological stances were purposefully selected juxtaposed to the interests of the international SANPAD (South Africa Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development) project in which this research study resides, entitled: ‘Human Rights Education in diversity: Empowering girls in rural and metropolitan school environments’ (Roux, 2009). The findings and interpretations derived from the empirical data reveal that the formal Human Rights Education curriculum portrays gender and gender equity nuances as health, social and wellbeing dilemmas that have detrimental and destructive consequences on individuals and on society as a whole. The female teachers and schoolgirls experience gender equity primarily in terms of sameness and ‘being equal’. The elusive, complex nature of gender equity was not prevalent. However, the lived experiences of some female teachers and schoolgirls demonstrated the situatedness of their gender identity through the hidden curriculum and reinforced the notion of gender equity as a social construct. The findings of this research study have refined my understanding of the nuances of gender and gender equity, creating in me a deeper awareness of these concepts. This awareness permeates my vision of the curriculum in particular and the education system and society in general, and makes me want to strive toward fostering transformative curriculum spaces. Another contribution of this research study emerged from the desire to elicit schoolgirls’ narratives with the aid of photographs. By disrupting the boundaries between narrative and photo-voice as data collection methods, narrative-photo-voice was coined as a methodological contribution to this research study. The value of narrative-photo-voice for and within gender studies research is also revealed. The third contribution of this research study emerged in response to the need to enrich the concept of gender equity within Human Rights Education. In effect, critical human rights literacy (HRLit) was conceptualized as a developing normative theory to deconstruct the discursive spaces emerging in Human Rights Education and to critically engage with their meanings.
- Education