That gender bias still exists shouldn’t surprise anyone, because it is a hard truth. Years of patriarchal conditioning cannot go away just like that. But is it too much to ask to be more self-conscious about our biases, especially those of us who are in positions to shape opinions? No, I am not asking for our political leaders to change, we are used to not taking most of them seriously. But can’t our teachers be a little more sensitive?
Teachers need to be the agents of change for this world be an equal place. And isn’t it easier to teach them to be equals from the beginning than take corrective measures later?
Recently, there was a tweet which has caught a lot of attention for talking about this issue. Dr Pragya Agarwal, who is a behavioural and data scientist spoke about how her three-year-old was told off in class for carrying her favourite book for her circle time. The toddler was told, “Oh don’t think boys will like this book”. The book in question is Frida Kahlo by Little People, BIG DREAMS!
My 3 yr old took this to nursery for 'circle time' when they read diff books. She was told: 'Oh don't think boys will like this book'
Not only could she not share her joy of a book she loves but she has also been given a message that girls & boys like diff things. I am livid. pic.twitter.com/0KWl7Ph1pN
— Dr. Pragya Agarwal (@DrPragyaAgarwal) February 13, 2020
As the mother rightly puts, “Not only could she not share her joy of a book she loves but she has also been given a message that girls & boys like diff things. I am livid.” Livid, she should be. There is no excuse for such blatant gender bias at a place like a pre-school. Such behaviour doesn’t just break the heart of a little kid, it introduces the very problematic gender-based divide to young impressionable minds. It legitimises stereotypes, pink and blue birthday dresses, and that boys can punch and girls always cry.
Circle time is a popular group activity in most toddler programmes during which children learn to spend time with their peers and get over their social awkwardness. They learn to take turns while speaking and listen to their friends and all this is facilitated by the teacher. Such activities in various forms through the initial years of a child’s school life help shape their personalities. They instil in them sensitivity, compassion and equal opportunity for people around them.
Such behaviour doestn’ just break the heart of a little kid, it introduces the very problematic gender-based divide to young impressionable minds.
As per the UNESCO early childhood is “defined as the period from birth to eight years old, is a time of remarkable growth with brain development at its peak. During this stage, children are highly influenced by the environment and the people that surround them.” Need anything more be said how negatively a rebuke by a teacher can affect a child? If you still don’t believe me try telling a three-year-old that their teacher is wrong, they will disown you for your allegation but their faith in their teacher will remain unmoved. They love their teachers, in the same way, we as parents love them.
Teachers, especially early childhood educators form a very special bond with not only the kids but the parents too. They are the first people outside the safety and security of the family who we entrust with the well-being of our children. Anything and everything they say leaves an impression on the child’s mind. It is really important that they use their position carefully. One small comment can invalidate all that they are being taught at home. Teachers need to be the agents of change for this world be an equal place. And isn’t it easier to teach them to be equals from the beginning than take corrective measures later? Let’s begin from there? Or at least try to?
Picture Credit: The Policy Times
The views expressed are the author’s own.