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Sexism in education is a serious concern even in today's rather educated and aware environment. Sexism traditionally refers to the treatment of men as a favored group over women but in recent times the term refers to preferential treatment of either gender.
While there have been broad strides in recent years in equalizing the positions of women and men, it is still important to be alert to potential discrimination because there is the real danger of assuming that we have vanquished the demon of sexism in modern education. Education at its best is a process of growth and self-awareness. If every individual and a community as a whole commits to this process, a successful battle can be waged against sexism.
There are very many places within the formal educational system where there is potential for sexism. The curriculum is an obvious start. It is critical that teachers and administrators ensure that they adopt overall curricula that reflect the interest of boys and girls.
There should be adequate material representing boys and girls in leading roles and also enough material that encourages boys and girls to think beyond stereotypes. It would be appropriate for a social studies' teacher's lesson plan to talk of important position held by women in politics while talking about politics and political positions o responsibility. There are plenty of teachers' resources available these days that are created with this awareness. Schools should also supplement by creating occasions for the students to acknowledge the injustices of the past.
Staff representation also plays a role in the way modern day sexism plays out. If every science, math and physical education teacher from elementary school to high school is male and if female educators are only seen associated with English and other language arts, it is not surprising if children start seeing certain patterns. While these patterns may exist naturally, the point is for the teacher and school system to be able to raise the issue and address it in a way that students do not limit themselves in making future career choices.
The parity in treatment of boys and girls should continue in the sphere of extracurricular activities also. Sometimes, a school system manages to balance gender representation in all the academic courses but ends up giving way more weightage to boys sports than girls sports and this can undo the message of equality.
Ideally education should fill the gaps that exist in society and the media. If there is an unquestioning acceptance of stereotypes such as women enjoying science less than men at a very young age, it may well lead to the science teacher sending a message to girl students that science is not likely to be their cup of tea. So, there is the need for constantly examining the current status quo, focusing on individual student capabilities rather than making prejudicial assumptions. A teacher should be able to balance the demands of adhering to lesson plans and deadlines and at the same time think beyond those practicalities to the long-term impact of handling boys and girls in an equally motivating manner. School is not just about teaching girls and boys some important historic dates and vital scientific formulas - it is the place where they also learn about how to be good human beings and good citizens and treat each other with open-mindedness and respect. A successful educational program should aspire for this end result.