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Addressing Gender Equality with Teaching Strategies


Primary school children in Ethiopia.


The best educational environments are those that are fair to all students, male or female.

But in many places around the world, female and male students do not always have the same chances for a good education.

In today’s teaching tips, we will discuss supporting gender equality in the classroom. We also will discuss how to create a more equal and balanced learning environment.

Helping future generations

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says access to a good education is important for getting out of poverty.

An educated individual is more likely to grow up healthy and have more opportunities for employment. This increases their chance of raising healthy children, and supporting them to also get an education. When all students, both male and female, have equal access to educational opportunities, the results impact future generations.

Creating more equal educational opportunities for students begins in the classroom and with the teacher. A strong teacher is one who treats their students fairly and creates an environment where students feel equally able to take part.

Lao child students in one of the school class room at rural area of Laos
Lao child students in one of the school class room at rural area of Laos

1. Tips for learning environments

Teachers can create the appearance of gender bias through unintentional, nonverbal actions. The first step to correcting this problem is to organize your classroom in a way that makes all students feel equal.

  • Establish rules

It is important for a teacher to establish a set of rules from the very beginning that promote equality. An effective way to do this is to create class rules with students. Ask students to suggest ideas for how to keep an equal and respectful classroom.

This permits the teacher to point to the rules as something that the whole class has agreed on. It is important to include rules that deal with respecting students, respecting the teacher and participating in class.

  • Have a classroom seating plan that supports equal participation.

If you find that certain students, regardless of their gender, are not participating in class, try to change your class seating plan. For example, try having students who usually sit in the back come to the front.

Teachers tend to interact the most with students sitting closest to them. For this reason, it is important to change the seating order (if possible) to give all students a chance to sit near the teacher.

  • Have equal academic and behavior expectations for all students

Teachers should try to avoid making things easier for either male or female students by giving them easier questions in class, or trying to solve things for the students.

Doing this can create the perception that certain students are not as smart as others. Teachers should hold the same expectations of all students.

  • Use group work

Often there will be some students, male or female, who are not comfortable speaking in front of large classes. But, they may feel more comfortable speaking in small groups. In order to give all students the opportunity to take part in class, try doing some activities in small groups of three to four students.​

2. Tips for classroom strategies

After organizing your class in a way that promotes equality, the next step is to consider the effects of your actions in class.

  • Addressing students equally

One of the main opportunities students have to participate in class is when they are answering teachers’ questions. Teachers need to call on or talk to both female and male students in a balanced way. Research shows that both male and female teachers often call on male students to speak in class more often than female students.

  • Provide enough wait time to answer questions.

Some students, male or female, may need time to think about the answer to a question when called on by a teacher. When calling on students who seem to wait longer to answer a question, make sure to give students at least four to five seconds. Research shows that giving students more time to answer will increase the number of students who participate.

  • Use gender neutral language

Sometimes in English people use male pronouns when referring to a group. But, this can make female students feel left out. Teachers should use gender neutral pronouns whenever possible. One example is, instead of saying “guys” when referring to a class or group (which is common in American English), say “everybody” or “everyone.”

  • Body language

Teachers may not realize that their body language with female students might be different from what it is with male students.

Whenever male or female students are talking, use respectful, listening body language. Face the listener, do not walk away, and do not interrupt students.

Also the teacher can move to different areas of the classroom while speaking. This is important because students sitting further from the teacher tend to participate less.

Students from the Princess Alia School for Girls in Amman, Jordan perform a song about gender equality.
Students from the Princess Alia School for Girls in Amman, Jordan perform a song about gender equality.

  • Discipline

Be aware when male students insult female students, or female students insult male students.

If the insults appear to be gender-based, students may be discouraged from participating in class in the future. Be quick to intervene and discipline the students making insults. This shows students of either gender that they will be supported.

However it is important that both male and female students are given the same discipline for the same actions.

These strategies will help teachers create a more equal classroom environment for their students. They will also help teachers effectively manage their classrooms. Remember: The best form of teaching is the fairest form of teaching!

I’m Alice Bryant

And I’m Phil Dierking

Phil Dierking wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

What other teaching strategies help promote gender quality in classrooms? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

bias – n. a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others that usually results in treating some people unfairly​

discipline – n. control that is gained by requiring that rules or orders be obeyed and punishing bad behavior​

gender – n. the state of being male or female​

impact – v. to have a strong and often bad effect on something or someone)

neutral – adj. not expressing strong opinions or feelings​

perception – n. the way you think about or understand someone or something​

promote – v. to make people aware of something ​

participate – v. to be involved with others in doing something​

tend - v. used to describe what often happens or what someone often does or is likely to do​

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