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LN: Human rights minister wants gender-sensitive textbooks

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Prague, July 22 (CTK) – Czech Human Rights Minister Jiri Dienstbier (senior government Social Democrats, CSSD) has included the goal to provide “gender sensitive textbooks” for schools in the government strategy for equality of men and women, daily Lidove noviny (LN)) writes yesterday.
Dienstbier wants to fight stereotypical approaches to boys and girls at schools that, in his opinion, influence their choice of future professions.
“It is immensely desirable to change the form of textbooks in harmony with the developments in the 21st century,” he told LN.
However, experts point out that textbooks do not affect childrens’ stances very much and that the strategy should rather focus on teachers who also work with textbooks and should explain the stereotypes to children, LN adds.
Primers, readers and other textbooks usually describe both genders in traditional roles – women looking after the household and children and men working in technical fields and their authors often address girls with diminutives. Such an approach is also reflected in illustrations, LN says.
This is why Dienstbier’s office states in the government gender equality strategy, approved until 2020, that textbooks must contain more gender sensitive texts.
This is not the first government initiative in this respect.
In 2008, the Education Ministry prepared the programme of gender equality in textbooks and two years later, it issued the respective manual for schools and the civil service to instruct them how to use gender-neutral expressions. However, the ministry withdrew the material from its website in the same year, LN writes.
Psychologist Ilona Gillernova, from Charles University, points out that textbooks do not confuse children, but the problem lies in the teachers’s approach to them on the basis of the stereotypes and traditions in which they were growing up. She points to the fact that women largely dominate the schools’ staff.
Further training in this area should be offered to teachers, she added.
Toman Fertek, from the EDUin company focuses on education, admits the stereotypes at schools, but he says they do not concern the selection of typical professions for boys and girls.
It is worse if a teacher cannot accept that a child is raised in a gay or lesbian family , that a boy may have long hair and discourages girls from playing with “boyish” toys, Fertek said.
However, the Education Ministry claims that schools are checked by the school inspection.
“Any discriminatory impact, not only related to the equality of men and women, is banned both in the school law and the framework educational programmes,” Education Ministry spokeswoman Jitka Jezkova told LN.
However, Dienstbier says the targeted programmes may not have such an effect if new aspects in them clash with traditions.

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