Education is the way to tackle inequality

Written by Liliana Rodrigues on 11 June 2015 in Opinion
Opinion

Education is a fundamental tool in the fight for gender equality, argues Liliana Rodrigues.

We still live in an unequal Europe. Progress has been made, but women continue to be a prime target for discrimination and violence.

I believe that education plays a fundamental role in changing this state of affairs and is responsible for the development of both personality and the creation of ideas which dictate attitudes, actions and perspectives on the world, guiding us through life and shaping our career choices.

Essentially, power relations, discrimination and the guarantee of equality are defined through education.

It can be used as a tool to form prejudices that lead to discrimination, or we can teach students to accept a multicultural and diverse society in which men and women are equal.


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School does not just serve to certify knowledge – it is also a fundamental institution for the promotion of equality.

Education should therefore develop scientific, cultural, social and personal skills that help increase young people's self-confidence, enhance their capabilities and improve their social and political participation.

Democratic education should combat stereotypes and discrimination, opposing all theories which perpetuate the incorrect ideologies and value systems that are subtly engrained into our minds from a young age.

This is clear from birth: little girls are dressed in pink –the colour of tenderness – while little boys are dressed in blue – the colour of intelligence.

The idea of women as caregivers and in charge of looking after the household has been accepted as a norm without question.

Even educational and curricular options are markedly stereotyped, with fewer women choosing to study science and technology-related subjects.

This promotes gender segregation on the labour market, preventing women from reaching their full potential.

These choices are still linked to the traditional view of social and cultural gender roles.

Democratic education should be based on criticism and questioning on the part of students, teachers, parents and other educators, and should promote multiplicity.

Even study materials contain gender stereotypes which should be critically examined by teachers. This is why it is important to train teachers to eliminate discriminatory views.

It is also why we need to turn our attention to formal and informal curricula in order to develop equal schooling in Europe, providing identical starting conditions and encouraging girls to take up science and research and boys to look into areas traditionally linked to women.

I know that in an ideal Europe this report would be superfluous. But we will not give up and we will keep working at it for as long as is needed.

Now is when we should speed things up and make up for lost time. Education is the way to do this.

 

About the author

Liliana Rodrigues (S&D, PT) is parliament's rapporteur on empowering girls through education in the EU

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