Gender Responsive Pedagogy in Early Childhood Education
Aniska started her changemaking journey as an undergraduate student interested in working in the field of healthcare and wellbeing. This led her to studying Development Studies at the National College at Kathmandu University, where she focused on the impact education institutions have on the mental health and development of students.
During her third year, Aniska got an opportunity to work as a campaign leader at Embrace the Cycle, a campaign focused on educating young girls and boys about the menstrual cycle and destigmatizing menstrual taboos. Aniska and her team frequently organized sessions about menstrual health and hygiene for students and teachers. While working with the children, she noticed how school curriculum and classroom practices were not inclined towards gender learning. For instance, a textbook for elementary school had pictures of doctors being portrayed as male and nurses as female. Aniska recognized this as one of many examples of how patriarchy, gender inequality and stereotypes are normalized.
“The young learners gain their understanding of gender roles and develop their gender identity primarily in learning institutions or at home,” says Aniska, adding that the reinforcement of gender biases and stereotypical gender roles is reflected in books, stories and the delivery and design of school curriculum. “The pre-schools are focused on delivering the pre-designed curriculum, and are not reviewed from a gender lens hence the bias continues,” she notes. Aniska feared the profound impact this could have on how these young learners will act and relate to one another, so she decided to start her own project titled “Gender Responsive Pedagogy for Early Childhood Education.”
Starting at the school level, engaging teachers and administrators, the project set out to train preschool teachers on gender responsive pedagogy to enable them to create a gender equal environment for young learners where they can learn, play, interact and participate beyond their stereotypical gender limits. The project targets three preschools in Kathmandu and began with an evaluation of the learning environment through discussion and observation. This provided a base to develop action plans for each school to address any gender specific prejudices and assumptions that lead to unequal educational outcomes. Each school nominated five teachers to participate in a 4-day virtual workshop on gender responsive pedagogy. The participants were from diverse backgrounds and levels of gender awareness which led to a vibrant discussion.
Aniska notes that the biggest impact this project has had so far is the change in the participants’ behavior. They are now familiar with gender responsiveness in different areas of their work such as lesson planning and delivery, language use, classroom setting and student interactions. They each developed an action plan where they identified challenges and opportunities for change. The teachers have also committed to creating a task force to review curriculums and create gender equal teaching materials. Aniska was thrilled to receive positive feedback from school administrators and an interest from other schools and teachers to participate in future workshops.
Joining the Peace First community Aniska was able to explore and analyze the type of projects young people undertake in Nepal and globally. On the platform, she’s seen how other countries and regions across the world address these same gender issues, providing more context and nuance to her own project. A dedicated mentor supported Aniska as she worked through the challenges of being a woman fighting for a more equitable world within deeply entrenched patriarchal structures in her country, which can often be isolating and demoralizing.
Aniska realizes the road ahead is long, despite the success of the first round of workshops, but she remains steadfast in her commitment to ensuring that today’s children grow in a world where they’re not only treated as equals, but also view themselves as equal. When asked about the advice she would give to someone starting a peacemaking project she said: “Get multiple perspectives on your topic of interest by talking to as many people as you can, be innovative and get ready for challenges - they can be minimized but never avoided.”
Watch Aniska talk to our regional manager for Asia and Oceania, Sushmina Baidya, about her project and her journey with Peace First here.