New website will facilitate the inclusion of gender issues in teacher educations

By on 19.10.2016 in Workshop

“Something should be done for the teacher education, and this has been on the agenda for a long time. However, students still graduate without knowing anything about gender issues,” said Professor Emeritus Elina Lahelma, University of Helsinki, kick-starting the brainstorming session at the GENTE meeting in Helsinki 29–30 September.

Elina leads the project Gender in teacher education (GENTE) with the aim at creating a website which will assemble Nordic research on gender in education. Primarily, the target group for the website is teacher educators and teacher education students, and it will be launched at NERA 2017.

“So far, we have carried out a questionnaire among teacher educators at the universities in Helsinki and Gothenburg, and we are planning to compile a Nordic handbook on gender in education,” said project assistant Venla Toivonen, University of Helsinki.

Preliminary results of the questionnaire answer questions such as how teachers at teacher address gender related issues in their teaching and what kind of material they feel would help them to include gender sensitivity in their teaching. Research, websites and textbooks were the most common answer on the latter question.

Venla Toivonen (standing) discussing with Annukka Jauhiainen, University of Turku, and Ann-Sofie Holm, University of Gothenburg.

Venla Toivonen (standing) discussing with Annukka Jauhiainen, University of Turku, and Ann-Sofie Holm, University of Gothenburg.

Gender equality has been marginalized

How gender is addressed in teacher educations differs a lot between Nordic universities. In Sweden there is a gap between policy documents for teacher education and practice in teacher education, says senior lecturer and JustEd member Marie Carlson, Department of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg. Her main research interests are cultural studies and the sociology of education with a special focus on ethnicity, gender, class and power relations.

“Even if we have done research on teacher education, we have never been invited to teach in teacher education”, says Marie.

In Sweden a new teacher education program has been designed based on bill 2009/10 ‘Best in Class – a new teacher education’.  There are rather big differences when comparing the ‘renewed’ and the ‘new’ teacher education.

“Gender is erased in the directives for the new teacher education. In the former bill there was a connection between gender equality and gender theory – there was a scientific basis. The new bill does not mention the gender concept at all,” Marie pinpoints.

“Toning down” gender issues can be seen as signals that these issues should no longer be a priority in teacher education in Sweden. Focus lies instead on results that can be measured.

Lack of critical discussion on gender in education

Referring to a research report by Maria Hedlin and Magnus Åberg, Marie states that in Sweden there seems to be a lack of critical discussion on gender in education, and says “gender equality seems to have been marginalized.”

“In the Nordic countries we have this utopic discussion about how gender equal we are”, states Jón Ingvar Kjaran, lecturer at School of Education, University of Iceland. “We have an utopic progressive society on the one hand, and the education on the other hand, and we have not been able to translate the utopian policies into practice.”

One exception is Linköping University. Susanne Kreitz-Sandberg works as Gender lecturer in educational sciences and her role is to actively contribute to the gender mainstreaming within the content and form of the study programme. In Linköping University there are gender lecturers at all faculties. When compared to many other Nordic universities, Linköping University is two steps ahead considering how gender perspectives are included in teacher education.

Gaby Weiner, University of Sussex, exchanged experiences with Marie Carlson, University of Gothenburg, and Elina Lahelma, University of Helsinki.

Gaby Weiner, University of Sussex, exchanged experiences with Marie Carlson, University of Gothenburg, and Elina Lahelma, University of Helsinki.

In the new Finnish core curriculum, gender is mentioned in many places. Nevertheless, practice deviates from theory at many teacher education departments, except at Lapland University.

“We are in a lucky situation at Lapland University,” says lecturer Seija Keskitalo-Foley, University of Lapland. “At present, we have compulsory and optional classes and courses on gender for our students. We also have a course for exchange students ‘Finnish gender and Education topics reflected in international contexts’, as well as several other classes where gender is included as a theme.”

International interest in how Nordic countries solves gender issues

At the GENTE meeting, universities outside the Nordic countries were also represented. Professor Gaby Weiner from the University of Sussex, provided viewpoints from the field in Britain.

“I spoke with gender workers at the teacher education department before I came here, and they did not know how gender was taught in teacher education at the university. The teacher education there is so based on practice, so fragmented, and a lot of it is school based,” Gaby said, and added “although there is quite a consciousness about gender in teacher education in Britain.”

Gaby’s message from colleagues at her university to the GENTE project and the creation of the website is “they are interested in collaborating.”

Tiiu Kuurme and Gertrud Kasemaa from the University of Tallinn, Estonia, share this interest. They represented one of the two major universities who educate teachers in Estonia.

The meeting in Helsinki congregated about 20 participating experts on gender in education from Finland, Sweden and Estonia, as well as from University of Brighton, England, where a big teacher education department is located.

Tiiu Kuurme, University of Tallinn, with JustEd members Ylva Odenbring, University of Gothenburg, and Jukka Lehtonen, University of Helsinki.

Tiiu Kuurme, University of Tallinn, discussing with JustEd members Ylva Odenbring, University of Gothenburg, and Jukka Lehtonen, University of Helsinki.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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