The education system can benefit from gender mainstreaming and gender-sensitivity training. Gender mainstreaming in the education system can be achieved along the model used in relation to training in gender-sensitive political and policy decision-making from which emerged the current and first female Prime Minister of T&T. Such a model will include re-training of education policy makers, along with teacher trainers, in a gender-sensitive approach to education, which will then be passed on to teachers and their charges. This accompanied by gender-sensitive learning materials developed for the education system at all levels from pre-school to policy making can help impact on and reverse the trends in gender stereotypes. Our experience in T&T suggests that more female or more male teachers do not necessarily in itself eliminate gender stereotyping. Teachers replicate and trans- mit gender stereotypes, unless they are actively trained and sensitised differently.
For example, we have not seen lesser numbers of cases of domestic violence because there are more female teachers in the system; nor because there are more girls to boys achievers in the system. Teachers' education must focus on helping teachers to understand how to approach education in a gender-sensitive manner that appreciates gender-mainstreaming issues and requirements and processes. Education is a core agent of socialisation and such teacher training is as important for pre-school teachers as it is for tertiary-level educators and policy makers throughout the system. Teachers must also understand the place of informal education processes in socialising children and teaching methods and approaches should accommodate this and integrate them in delivery of learning. Thirdly, teaching materials should specifically be developed to address and reflect such gender-sensitivity and gender-mainstreaming approaches as educa- tion materials themselves incorporate inbuilt stereotyping of male and female roles as well as inherent discriminatory practices.
Schools reinforce gender roles. There is need for a holistic revision to include how education is delivered, including content, education materials and teacher approaches. Stopgap and knee-jerk responses will not work. The Caribbean, particularly T&T, is in a particularly complex situation that in fact reflects how much gender roles are reinforced by the education system. Teachers in the large in the region are females. Many of these females seem to transmit still latent gender stereotypes to their charges, often inadvertently. The result is perpetuation of archaic gender relations and particular stereotypical expectations by males, for instance, of females while traditional female roles are reinforced by female teachers replicating stereotypes. This can explain high levels of domestic violence, for instance, where women remain in the large the main victims despite high levels of social and economic accomplishments. A conscious approach to gender education, included in teacher retraining, alongside developing educational materials that are more sensitive to gender roles can help begin the process of reducing replication of traditional attitudes of males to females of all ages.
Of course, this must also be done in conjunction with the informal education processes that socialise boys and girls-the family, religion, entertainment and cultural environments. Unesco has set up an online forum towards observance of International World Teachers Day to be celebrated on October 5 on the theme "Teachers for Gender Equality." The public can join the online forum and post their comments. Unesco's World Teachers' Day, held annually on October 5, is a day to celebrate the essential role of teachers in providing quality education at all levels. It also commemorates the anniversary of the 1966 signature of the Unesco/ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers. For more information, visit: www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/education-building-blocks/teacher-education/world-teachers-day/
Dr Kris Rampersad is a media, cultural and literary consultant. She is chair of the T&T National Commission for Unesco and international relations director of the Network of NGOs of T&T for the Advancement of Women