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The image of women in textbooks. Let’s talk with facts

In recent days, the Armenian domain of the Internet has been actively discussing and criticizing Sona Ghazaryan’s /member of the “My Step” faction/ speech about the problem of reproducing gender stereotypes in alphabet and by teachers, during the hearings on Education Reforms and Upcoming Strategic Challenges. Putting aside the incorrect statement made by the MP, for which she, by the way, apologized to the author of the alphabet, Vachagan Sargsyan, let’s state that the issue of reproducing and reinforcing gender stereotypes by the educational system was first raised in the parliament.


And while the perception of the public has been overshadowed by specific groups’ anti-propaganda, outright insults and political speculations on the MP, it is possible that this noise will eventually turn attention to the fact that the limited role models of girls and boys in our textbooks in this respect are an obstacle to achieving real equality. Moreover, the image of the woman in the textbooks does not meet the requirements of modern society and the policies adopted by our state.


The issue of gender stereotypes in the field of education has been raised by experts for years, as it has been in the past in the 2011-2015 Gender Policy of the Republic of Armenia under the former government. In the strategic plan, as well as in the recently adopted Strategy for the implementation of the gender policy of the Republic of Armenia 2019-2023, which specifically provides:


  • Creating gender-sensitive environments at all levels of education by conducting gender-based examination of published school textbooks and incorporating the issue of equal rights and equal opportunities for women and men in all educational standards, curriculum development, curricula, manuals, curricula, manuals and tutorials.


  • Inclusion of gender component in the review of state general education standards and subject curricula, provision of relevant themes and illustrations in published textbooks.


  • Raise awareness of gender equality issues among educators and pedagogues and develop gender sensitivity.


The 2013 Gender Roles in Elementary School Textbooks of the Republic of Armenia survey (by Ruzanna Tsaturyan) found that approximately half of surveyed educators found that “women and men should follow traditional professions” and “there are professions that women should not. 56% of educators thought that men could choose any profession. These results suggest that many educators reproduce stereotypical views about sex, which in turn affects the opportunities offered to girls.


57% of educators think that they can change traditional stereotypes and that they are doing it in their work, while 14% respond that they can change traditional stereotypes as educators, but do not try to do so in the classroom. 27% said that their role is simply to teach.


In the textbooks, male roles are predominantly in the public domain, and female roles in the private, family domain. Men and boys are generally portrayed as leaders, initiators, while girls are more likely to be performers, followers. Boys are involved in active, creative pursuits. climbing trees, swimming, playing sports, repairing, riding bicycles, doing physical work, while girls are mostly involved in more passive roles, often just copying feminine or maternal roles.


According to research, in many Armenian textbooks, women are not only less visible than men, but they are also stereotyped, often appearing in passive, subordinate, and dependent roles. In almost all textbooks, for example, women and girls generally relate to their marital status, particularly in the roles of mother, wife, daughter, and grandmother. In 10th grade Armenian literature textbooks, for example, female characters are often portrayed in the context of motherhood, emphasizing their modesty, beauty, obedience, their willingness to sacrifice their husbands and their homeland.

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