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International conference explores gender balance and bias in education

Posted: 29 March 2007

“The debate and discussion which form the basis of this conference will address many of the themes of gender and education which face policy makers today,” commented Minister Hanafin at the opening of the Gender Education Association 6th International Conference on 28 March 2007. “Such debate is vital in helping us to reflect more closely on how we are responding to gender issues in education.” 

Dr Maryann Valiulis, Director of Trinity College Dublin’s Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies, Minister Mary Hanafin and Dr Deirdre Raftery, UCD School Of Education And Lifelong Learning

Jointly hosted by University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, the conference examined issues of balance and bias in education. It explored teacher education in equality issues, the feminisation of the teaching profession, and gender balance in primary, secondary and third-level curricula and its impact on balance in the classroom.

“Having delegates from all over the world demonstrates the extent and importance of gender in education and the need to expand our knowledge about the ways in which gender affects our educational experience,” said Dr. Maryann Valiulis, Director of Trinity College Dublin’s Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies.

In her keynote address, Gender Balance/Gender Bias: Teaching, Teacher Education and Professionalism in Changing International Environments, Professor Sheelagh Drudy, Head of UCD School of Education and Lifelong Learning, outlined issues relating to gender, teaching, teacher education and professionalism in the context of emergent global processes and the development of the knowledge society. She gave particular consideration to the impact of the feminisation of teaching, reviewing international patterns of gender variations in the teaching profession.

At the conference, the Honourable Justice Sydney Hanlon, the first Judge of the Dorchester County District Court in Boston presented a paper on gender, violence and women’s education.

According to Justice Sydney Hanlon, around the world, one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused during her lifetime, most often by a member of her own family or someone known to her.

This gender violence, and the resulting trauma, dramatically affect the ability of a woman to meet the demands of everyday life, especially to pursue education at all levels.  In the United States, research shows that women of secondary school and college age are most at risk from gender violence: they are sexually assaulted, stalked and battered in significant proportions, almost always by someone they know: a boyfriend or former boyfriend, a friend or an acquaintance.  Women who are in college are more at risk than those who are not, and most of these incidents go unreported to law enforcement or campus authorities.

“Changing this culture of gender violence in a constructive and fair way poses an important challenge for leaders in women's, and men's, education in the years to come,” said Justice Hanlon.

Other topics presented at the conference which took place in Trinity College Dublin included: A historical perspective on the strategies of professional women in education by Professor Mineke Van Essen, University of Gronigen, Netherlands; and women teachers, Islam and the education of Muslim girls in French Algeria in the 19th century by Professor Rebecca Rogers, Education Department of the University of Paris.

The conference was jointly organised by Dr Maryann Valiulis and Jennifer Redmond of the Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies, TCD and Dr Deirdre Raftery and Dr Judith Harford of the UCD School of Education and Lifelong Learning. The conference organising committee have published extensively in the area of gender education.

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