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NCERT textbooks put to the test on gender bias


Times of India


NEW DELHI: Gender analysis of NCERT textbooks from Class I to V has shown that while most of them highlight gender concerns, there are elements of stereotypes in some of them.

Gender review of English, Hindi, mathematics and environmental science textbooks was done by NCERT’s department of women’s studies.

The analysis said environmental studies textbooks, authored by 36 female and two male teachers, addressed gender issues in a substantial manner. However, it said there were some stereotypes reflected in visuals. For instance, a Class III textbook has a visual showing women in the stereotypical role of fetching water. Also, power structures are not reflected properly.

On the positive side, children’s imagination, creativity, dreams have been followed well. Environment studies textbooks also deal with diversity and marginalization, and show both boys and girls in active roles.

Mathematics textbooks, the analysis said, involved both parents and boys and girls equally. In some exercises, boys are shown making patterns out of bangles and girls fixing nails. The analysis also found some atypical features in the textbooks. For instance, women are shown as inheriting property and having equal rights to it.

There are stories where division of wealth is settled by involving females. Girls have been shown as solving problems of their fathers. There is a mention of a family having two daughters, which conveys a subtle message of valuing the girl child.

However, the analysis suggested that some terms could be changed to make it more gender sensitive: ‘policeman’ can become ‘police person’ or ‘milkman’ can be ‘milk person’. Ownership of assets, the analysis said, could be reflected jointly.

In Hindi textbooks, though there was gender sensitivity overall, the analysis found that in a few places, there was subtle bias in treating animals and nature as feminine and masculine. Even adjectives used were stereotypical. For instance, in a poem, only boys are shown flying kites while girls are shown watching.

In English textbooks, though there was thematic consistency, coherence and contextualization, at times more of an urban scenario was mentioned.

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