Nigerian girls fall behind Boys in access to educational opportunities, according to findings of a new book, Exploring the Bias: Gender and Stereotyping in Secondary Schools.
Published by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, the 272-page book covering seven countries including Nigeria showed that schools in general reflected and reinforced gender disparities.
The survey involved two groups — the first on India, Pakistan and Nigeria, where girls lag behind boys and the second on Malaysia, Seychelles, Samoa and Trinidad and Tobago, where boys struggled behind girls.
On the contrary, their preferential treatment in school and at home may have contributed to their somewhat lax attitude towards their studies.
While most girls see education as their passport to the future, boys appear to take it for granted, according to a study on gender bias in schools.
Yet despite this subtle gender discrimination at almost all levels – in the classroom, textbooks and even sports and games – the boys appear to be outsmarted by girls.
With most leaders and role models being men, it is little wonder that boys harbour a surreal feeling that they can do well in life even if they don’t excel in education.
“The compelling factor to perform well in studies doesn’t exist for boys as much as they do for girls,” explains Dr Jyotsna Jha, one of the authors of a new book, Exploring the Bias: Gender and Stereotyping in Secondary Schools.
As a follow-up to the study, a second book The Gender-Responsive School: An Action Guide has also been published, providing teachers and head teachers guidance on how to make schools more gender-responsive.
Dr Jha notes that most researchers usually looked at the issue of access to education, but they wanted to examine how gender bias worked when children get to school.
“The rising trend of boys’ under-achievement has been deliberated among Commonwealth countries over the years,” she says, adding that in Malaysia, boys did not perform as well as girls.
She cites a number of reasons, including the fact that they see education differently despite getting better treatment in school and at home.
Dr Jha draws attention to the stereotypical view on domestic roles for girls like sweeping the floor, looking after siblings and washing dishes while boys almost had a free hand in what they do.
Hence, girls feel resentful about the favouritism towards the boys, who prefer to get involved in mat rempit (motorcycle racing) activities, hang out at cybercafés and lepak (loiter) at shopping malls.
“Such a bias attitude generally existed in all seven countries, not just Malaysia, but with slight changes in forms,” she says.
For instance, in Pakistan, Nigeria and parts of India, their only focus was on boys and education was still considered “more manly,” she adds.
She also touches briefly on the conclusion that there’s evidence of gender discrimination at almost all levels in Malaysia. It could be seen in the attitudes, thinking and behaviour of students, teachers, and principals.
“Even school games and sports are highly geared towards boys’ interests, while library books focus mostly on male personalities,” she notes.
Dr Jha says they came up with a second book which provided a practical guide to support schools to change and address certain stereotypes.
“We had teachers who went through the whole process of teaching certain things differently, so that both boys and girls take more interests in them,” she says.
The two books are available at; MDC
Book Distributors Sdn Bhd, MDC Building, 2717 & 2718, Jalan Permata 4, Taman Permata, 53300 Ulu Klang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
(tel: 603-4108-6600), University Bookstore (M) Sdn Bhd, 43, Jalan 34/154, Taman Delima, 56000 Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (tel: 603-9100-1860) and major book stores in Malaysia.