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Gender stereotypes in textbooks influence career opportunities: experts

Gender stereotypes in textbooks lead to many consequences, from school bullying to the loss of career opportunities, experts say.

Gender stereotypes in textbooks influence career opportunities
Gender stereotypes in textbooks influence career opportunities

Duong Thi Hue, a teacher at Quoc hoc of Hue, commented that the image of women in Vietnamese folk verses and literature works is usually associated with complaints about their lives, which are full of hardships.

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) on 76 textbooks for six subjects designed for first to 12th graders, found that only 24 percent of 8,300 characters in the textbooks were women, while 7 percent had gender unspecified (‘child’, ‘student’ and ‘parents’). At least 69 percent of the characters were men.

Similarly, of 8,000 images found in the textbooks, men accounted for 58 percent.

At least 95 percent of VIPs and famous portraits mentioned in textbooks are men. The women in textbooks mostly work as officers, housewives and are quiet and dependent. Men have more diverse occupations, from physician, scientist, and professor to engineer and policemen. Men are considered breadwinners in families and have a decisive voice.

Tran Thi Huong Giang from the Vietnam Education Science Institute in 2017 also discovered problems related to gender equality in textbooks used to teach STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

Of the 187 authors who wrote 45 textbooks, there are 145 male and 42 female authors.
Tran Thi Phuong Nhung, director of the UNESCO Gender Equality and Girls’ Education Initiative, said stereotypes in textbooks were particularly worrisome because gender inequality is derived from gender stereotypes set by society.

Content and images containing gender prejudices will have a direct impact on student perceptions. This affects the development of a child’s personality, thinking, attitude and behavior.

Tran Thu Thuy from the Vietnam Women’s Union pointed out that if gender equality is underestimated in textbooks, this will lead to consequences. For example, bullying in schools is a result of the thinking that men are stronger and have power.

When students grow up, the prejudices will affect their views about careers and job opportunities. They may be misled by gender stereotypes, and may choose jobs not based on their capability.

The Vietnam Women Association recently organized a workshop on integrating gender into textbooks for general education to discuss how to eliminate gender inequality in textbooks.

“Integrating gender into textbooks not only means changing the frequency of appearance of women and men, the words and images used in textbooks, but other matters as well,” Nhung said.

Phan Xuan Thanh, deputy director of the Education Publishing House, said current textbooks will be used for five more years.