Do Co-ed Schools Nurture Gender Sensitivity ?

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Do Co-ed Schools Nurture Gender Sensitivity?

| Updated: March 9, 2022 08:15

While the benefits of co-ed schools are many, whether they inculcate gender sensitivity in children depends on a conducive atmosphere.

While co-educational schools are more common these days, there are still some parents who prefer that their child studies in an all boys’ or all girls’ school. The reason: They do not want romantic entanglements to distract their child and interfere with academic performance. 

Not going into the pros and cons of the co-educational system here, we discuss two major potential benefits. First, how interacting with the opposite gender on a regular basis increases the social skills of children. They’re able to communicate freely, shed their shyness, and forge wholesome friendships. 

Second, boys who study in a co-ed school are likely to be more gender-sensitive. It seems reasonable to deduce that girls and boys in co-ed schools learn about equality of the sexes.  Dr. Richard Fabes, director of the School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University in the US, strongly believes that the more time male and female students spend apart, the more gender stereotypes are reinforced! 

Dr. Gaurang Jani

Ahmedabad-based sociologist, Dr. Gaurang Jani, who has a keen interest in gender issues, says: “If gender sensitivity can’t be nurtured in a family setting, co-ed schools can play a pivotal role in bringing about change. But boys and girls must sit on the same bench, not in separate parts of the classroom. Also, the school management must ensure that girls and boys mix during co-curricular cultural activities and sports.”

Dr. Jani stresses that teachers must consciously intervene to raise awareness and bust stereotypes. In fact, gender sensitivity should be part of the curriculum. “I have observed that even in co-ed schools, it’s the girls who are asked to greet guests with flowers or offer them a glass of water. Again, prayers are sung mostly by girls in schools. On one occasion when I visited a school for a lecture on gender sensitisation, I refused to accept water from a girl, saying that gender stereotypes must not be reinforced by schools,” he says.  

Anju Chazot

Founder-director of Mahatma Gandhi International School (MGIS), Ahmedabad, Anju Chazot says many parents are worried about boy-girl issues that arise in co-ed schools. “Infatuations are part of growing up. They have to be dealt with sensitively without making children feel guilty or ashamed. Studying in a co-ed institution is healthy. The presence of the opposite gender is important for personal growth, building identity, and learning about boundaries.” 

At MGIS, there is an effort to break gender stereotypes from a young age. Kindergarten boys are asked to prepare food for a project. The school conducted a fashion show for boys of class 10, which they enjoyed, after initial hesitation. “In media studies, children analyse articles and advertisements for gender stereotypes. Our children discuss how women are depicted in art and literature. We have gender-sensitive teachers. When we talk of gender sensitivity we should talk

about sensitivity among children towards all genders and different orientations. Inclusion and diversity are life lessons one must learn in the school itself,” says Anju.  

Advertising professional Meenu Kaul, who lives in Ahmedabad, says: “Both my husband Sudhir and I have studied in co-ed schools and believe in that system. My son Rushaan, who is 15, has been studying in St Xavier’s Loyola Hall since he was in class 1. It was an all boys’ school earlier and the ratio of girl students is still low. However, conversations are open and frank between boys and girls in school. My son has friends of both genders.”

Sudhir, Rushaan and Meenu

However, Meenu believes that school apart, gender sensitivity must be inculcated at home. “In our home, no chore is meant only for a woman. Rushaan, my husband Sudhir, and my father too do household chores. Rushaan is an only child but he has many girl cousins. As a result, he respects girls and knows how to behave with them,” she says. 

By: Aruna Raghuram

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