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Gender in Science and Technology

The study funded by DST, and carried out at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education focused on the gender aspects of illustrations and writing in the NCERT science textbooks for Grades III to X, in use during the academic year 2007-08, and also on students’ and teachers’ ideas related to gender. The analysis of textbooks revealed that the schools texts continue to present gender biases by omission and commission. Not only are there significantly less female figures, these figures are also not active but were often passive observers. Besides, females were depicted in stereotypical images (mother, nurse, teacher, etc.) and in non-remunerative occupations limited to the domestic space. On the other hand, men were portrayed in a variety of activities, which were economic in nature. Nowhere in the texts were women depicted as developers of history and initiators of events in S&T – neither were actual women scientists depicted nor was the possibility of women scientists explored. What example does this set for a girl who has a dream to become a scientist (or does she even dream thus?) and for a boy who wants to be an elementary school teacher? Also there was a bias in the language with use of terms like ‘mankind’, ‘manmade’, etc. Surprisingly, even the Grade VIII (new) and VII textbooks which talk about “Giving girls their chance”, present these examples of gender unfairness.

 

The study included administrations of questionnaires to students and teachers. The responses to these questionnaires unearthed gender stereotypical perceptions about occupations amongst students and teachers. The image of S&T as male-only domains remained a dominant perception in most students’ minds. While these perceptions reflect the existing situation, they do not represent the changing scenario with regard to women’s participation in S&T. Educators and textbook illustrators need to make conscious efforts to overcome the biases that creep into textbook production and besides science content, keep the concepts of gender in mind. Simple recommendations are: have equal representation of male and female figures in illustrations and textual content; portray females in active, positive, and professional roles, and not in traditional stereotypic ones; depict males on par with women as contributing to household chores; and increase the numbers of female role models such as scientists, freedom fighters, social reformers, innovators and contributors to the history of science. If we envision a world that values equality, tolerance and the well-being of all those who live in it, then we must begin by instilling these values in young minds.

 

(S. Chunawala, S. Mehrotra, P. Sawant, A. Patel and Vinisha K)

 

Exhibition on ‘Gender & Science’


The exhibition Gender and Science is a unique permanent exhibition, which critiques gender stereotyping in science while highlighting the role of women in scientific progress. It attempts to explicate the complex concepts, gender and science, and the tenuous relationship between them. The exhibition was prepared with the aim of sensitising students, teachers and laypersons about the role of women in science and technology. It has representation of several women scientists from antiquity to the present, across various domains, thus highlighting the often, invisible participation of women in the task of knowledge generation.

 

While acknowledging that women seem to have a very limited impact and presence in modern science today, the exhibition traces the historical background, and the reasons for the situation. Various panels were prepared earlier, but this year the number was increased and the nature of the panels was changed from temporary to permanent panels. This involved a considerable amount of creative work along with a lot of routine drudgery.

 

An exhibition booklet, titled, Gender and Science; an exhibition booklet, was brought out at this time along with a translation in Marathi (December 2003). The booklet presents the details present on the panels along with some additional information on the same. The exhibition was inaugurated on December, 19, 2003, by TIFR Director, Prof. S. Bhattacharya. The exhibition has been visited by many students, teachers and B.Ed., trainee teachers.

 

Publications

  • Chunawala S., Vinisha, K. and Patel A. Gender, Science and Schooling: illustrations in science textbooks and students' and teachers' ideas related to gender, 2009, HBCSE, TIFR, Mumbai, Gender Issues in Education, Position Paper 3.2, National Curriculum Framework, 2005, NCERT. (Co-author)
  • Sugra Chunawala and Chitra Natarajan; Placing technology education within the gender perspectives, epiSTEME-1 an international conference to review research on science education, International Centre, Dona Paula, Goa, December 13-17, 2004

  • Sugra Chunawala; A review of some literature on Biological Determinism, Research Centre for Women’s Studies, RCWS Newsletter: Vol. 25 No. 2 & 3, Monsoon/Fall Issue, 2004.

  • Sugra Chunawala; Education and technology education within the gender perspective, in, Multiple Languages, Literacies and Technologies; Mapping out concepts, analysing practices and defining positions. Ed. Patrick V. Dias, 2004, Books for Change, New Delhi, pp. 162-177.

  • Sugra Chunawala and Chitra Natarajan: Technology, education and issues of gender; International Symposium on social production of knowledge through diversity of expressive modes, multiple literacies and bi (multi) lingual relationships, March 2003

  • Sugra Chunawala, Gender and Science; an exhibition booklet, HBCSE, December 2003.

  • Sugra Chunawala, Stree Purush Bhed aani Vignyan; Pradarshan Pustika, HBCSE, 2003 (in Marathi).

  • Sugra Chunawala; Career choices of girls and the effects of Intervention in the form of provision of vocational guidance: Journal of Education and Social Change, Vol. V, No 2, pp 43 55, July Sept, 1991

  • Sugra Chunawala; Sex role stereotyping of occupations among teachers and students: Journal of Education and Social Change, Vol. III, No 3, pp 89 102, Oct-Dec, 1989



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