These gender stereotypes are some of the references and examples found in textbooks prescribed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), according to a study conducted by an NGO Action Aid. The NGO’s study concludes that NCERT textbooks for classes two to five – including Mathematics, English and Environmental Sciences – contain references and examples that encourage gender stereotypes.
“We don’t have to reiterate the fact that textbooks and schools shape the minds of children. In the 21st century, when we are trying to build our country, one of the most important aspects of enlightenment is gender sensitivity,” said Dr Kshitij Urs, regional manager of Action Aid.
The study observed that in an English textbook for class five, 56 per cent of illustrations represent only men, compared to 20.6 per cent of women. Similarly, a class two textbook contains sentences such as “I wonder if my teacher will look like my mother or grandmother”.
Action Aid will submit the findings of their study to the NCERT soon and has asked the central education agency to replace the textbooks and use gender neutral terms.
“We are making specific demands not only to change the textbooks but to use gender neutral terms in the Constitution, the law we make and the policies that we evolve,” said Dr Urs.
This was also echoed by Anais Leclere, the lead researcher of the study.
“The textbooks teach us that if you are a boy, you don’t need to be as kind as women. This is harmful and that is what I am fighting against,” said Ms Leclere to NDTV.
Action Aid’s study was also discussed by Kripa Alva, the chairperson of Karnataka’s State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, at an open house session.
“There is huge gender bias in the textbooks. If the image of boys being superior to girls gets embedded in their mind at a very young age, it is very difficult to let go of in later years. We need to have gender sensitivity from pre-nursery itself,” she said.