A Gender Review in Education, Turkey 2003 (10)

Analysis of Results (2)

Girl students assemble for the opening ceremony on their first day back at secondary school, September 2004

It is possible to conclude that schools in Turkey actually contribute significantly to the reproduction of traditional gender roles.
Photograph by Sinem Akay © UNICEF Turkey 2003

The Status of Teaching Materials with Respect to Gender Sensitivity

In spite of recent developments, the gender issue remains something of a bottleneck in the development of eight-year education programmes and teaching materials.

Turkey has undersigned two documents which aim for the provision of greater gender sensitivity in education:

The ‘Girls and Education’ section of the ‘Final Resolutions of Beijing+5’ stresses that:

The insistent utilisation of gender stereotypes in the education materials impedes the accessibility and persistence of girls in school.

The Beijing Action Plan requests the formulation and implementation of gender sensitive curricula at all levels of education. Furthermore, this document renders the signatory states responsible for:

designating policies in order to free education from insistently retained stereotypes, within the framework of changing gender roles and responsibilities of boys and men.

Article 5 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) requires that signatory states are responsible for:

the abolition of all custom, practice, traditional behaviour and prejudices that serve the degradation of one gender with respect to the other, or claim the superiority of one sex to the other, or envisage roles based on stereotypes.

To reach this aim, paragraph (c) of Article 10 pertaining to education in the same document, envisages:

… consolidation of education and promotion of other forms of education, reviewing of the school curricula and particularly the school books, and redesigning of the teaching methods.

In Turkey, however, there has been no gender cleansing of the curriculum, textbooks or teacher-training materials. Textbooks still contain elements that attribute an active role to men and a passive role to women -- so, while men are encouraged to take part in the public sphere, women are being limited by their husbands and children and responsibility for domestic work1.

It is possible to conclude that schools in Turkey actually contribute significantly to the reproduction of traditional gender roles. Teaching of stereotypical gender roles also occurs within the scope of literacy courses for grown-ups2. Course materials often perpetuate and reinforce the traditional roles that prevail amongst learners.

Despite urgent need, policies and mechanisms on the inspection of education materials with a gender sensitive approach … training of persons to conduct this inspection and the production of new texts following the removal of sexist elements are yet to be formulated.

Education Processes Affecting Girls’ Education

By law, girls and boys have had equal access to all levels of education since the inception of the Republic. Primary school is compulsory and further levels of education are left to the discretion of students and their families. In practice, however, the absence of an egalitarian approach to boys and girls and positive discrimination to balance the negative forces at play, tends to favour boys at all stages of education. The enrolment of the boy child is preferred to the girl child particularly in cases where a choice between the two has to be made. Traditional reluctance to send or keep the girl child in school still persists in the lower income bracket and rural areas.

Gender discrimination is frequently observed in the education processes as well. Elements such as teachers' background as well as their modes of socialisation and education usually prevent them from acquiring the necessary awareness to question what is traditional. Research indicates that teachers tend to overlook issues on whether or not their schools are male dominated or question the conservative and even gender biased content of textbooks and thus pay little attention to sexist approaches. The refusal to perceive gender segregation can be interpreted as an indication of the internalisation of traditional gender roles.3, 4, 5

Another important factor in education processes regarding girls’ education is the gender ratio of staff in schools. Only 3% of school principals in primary schools are women. Women constitute 44% of primary school teachers and 39% of secondary school teachers. In universities, the gender gap is still greater. The prevalence of males in the upper echelons of education, teaching more ‘important’ subjects such as mathematics and physics enforces the message that higher levels of knowledge are the ‘domain of men’ while female teachers, more frequent in lower grades, are occupied in teaching subjects such as reading or writing.

The Learning Environment for Girls

The learning environment for girls has various dimensions. Although systematic data regarding the psychological environment for girls is not available, numerous researches and observations provide an overall idea of the implications. School as a psychological environment is by nature a stressful place for students where they are subject to the control of authority not only in the process of learning but also in the details of their personal appearance such as fingernails, hair, clothes, inter-student relationships and so forth. Girls especially are under meticulous surveillance by teachers who frequently add further limitations on loudness of speech, manners &c. Consequently girls tend to refrain from asking questions or contributing to discussions and decisions in order to minimise the risk of attracting attention -- at the same time they also inhibit the necessary interaction required for efficient learning. As a result of this strategy girls have less discipline problems but they also tend to volunteer more in accordance with gender expectancies for cleaning, services, solidarity in extra-curricular activities &c., -- especially in rural areas.6

In general schools have negligible safety and security problems. Major physical upgrading activities have been undertaken to meet the building standards of MONE, yet continued efforts are necessary.

The learning environment is not confined to school buildings alone: there are schools in the outskirts of urban areas and in some rural areas which are difficult to reach particularly in the winter. However, State provision of bus services to schools further than 2.5km has improved the access of girls to school. Regional boarding schools are another positive application to minimise the negative effects of long travelling distances.

1 Helvacioğlu, F, Ders Kitaplarında Cinsiyetçilik 1928-1995 (Gender in Schoolbooks 1928-1995) Kaynak Publishing, İstanbul 1996 and Altan, S, Ders Kitaplarında Cinsiyetçilik (Gender in Schoolbooks), GDSPW, Ankara 2000.

2 First Level Education Programme in Reading and Writing for Adults, MONE 2000.

3 Gök, F, Türkiye’de Eğitim ve Kadınlar (Education and Women in Turkey), 1993 -- see: Tekeli, S, Derleyen (Anthologist), 1980’ler Türkiye’sinde Kadın Bakış Açısından Kadınlar (The Woman’s Point of View on Women in Turkey in the 1980’s) İletişim Publishing, İstanbul 1995;

4 Gök, F, ve Okçabol, R, Öğretmen Profili Araştırma Raporu (Teacher Profiling Research Report), Eğitim Sen, İstanbul 1999;

5 Türkoğlu, H, Kadın Öğretmenler ve Sendikal Katılım, (Women Teachers and Trade Union Participation) Eğitim Sen Örneği, Yüksek Lisans Tezi, Ankara University, Ankara 1999;

6 Acar, F, Ayata, AG, Varoğlu, D, Cinsiyete Dayalı Ayrımcılık: Türkiye’de Eğitim Sektörü Örneği (Gender Discrimination: Examples from Turkey’s Education Sector), GDSPW, Ankara 1999.

The tenth part of A Gender Review in Education, Turkey 2003, Analysis of Results continues on the following page.

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