Education holds the power to form the understanding, attitudes and the behaviour of individuals. It is used as a tool for the promotion of national identities and can enhance the privilege of certain groups in the society (Smith, 1991), including men’s power over women. Gender roles and inequalities are reproduced, formed, defined, strengthened and promoted by educational institutions through implicit and explicit means.
While research has focused on unequal access to education and differences in enrolment rate for girls and boys, the way curriculum and textbooks can position boys and girls unequally and constructs them as gendered subjects must be explored as well
In the case of Pakistan, gender disparities have been found in the curricula and textbooks
In another study with a smaller sample size, the representation of women in illustrations was likewise found to be minimal, with 21.4% of illustrations portraying women and the rest portraying men
The context in which women are represented in the Pakistani textbooks is similarly gendered. When female icons are talked about, they are shown as helpless, tolerant, pious and domesticated figures supporting their husbands
The way in which the unequal representation of women in textbooks is producing gender identities and hierarchies is demonstrated in a study by Durrani (2008). The methodology comprised asking a sample of students to draw the image of “us” (Pakistanis); none of the drawings by male students were of women. As for female students, there were some drawings of females, however, these images showed women undertaking stereotyped activities such as cooking. The students were also asked to pick an icon from the textbooks, and only 4.1% of the male students selected a female icon. In contrast, the girls who picked female icons shared that they did so because she was a “good wife or mother ”
The discussion around these differences in representation and discrimination in school textbooks is important, as it has an impact on children’s life choices as well as motivation
A way to address this gap is to increase the number of female authors of schools textbooks. Studies show that in cases where textbooks were written by female authors, there was a higher representation and frequency of female icons
Campbell, E. (2010). Women in the history’s textbooks.
Durrani, N. (2008). Schooling the ‘other’: the representation of gender and national identities in Pakistani curriculum texts. Compare: A Journal of Comparative, 595-610.
Griffith, A. L. (2010). Persistence of women and minorities in STEM field majors: Is it the school that matters. Economics of Education Review,, 911-922.
Kereszty, O. (2009). Gender in Textbooks. Practice and Theory in Systems of Education, 1-7.
Smith, A. D. (1991). National Identity . Las Vegas: University of Nevada Press.
Ullah, H., & Skelton, C. (2012). Gender representation in the public sector schools textbooks of Pakistan. Educational Studies, 183-194.