In Search for Equality in our Classrooms
By Athina Swahn and Anja Tuneld
When we came to SSE, we began considering our own behaviour in the classroom. We never raised our hands when we had questions, we never spoke up when we had an opinion. And this is completely normal – if you are a female student. This phenomenon stems from structures that are deeply rooted in our society and affects us from an early age. While boys are accepted for, even encouraged to blurt out whatever is on their mind, girls are taught to be prudent and never say something that might be wrong. In fact, the playful experimenting exhibited by boys is viewed by society as a mark of intelligence, whereas the thoughtfulness of girls is seen as passive obedience.
We wanted to make a change. So, we applied to the Gun and Einar Larsson Scholarship (GELS)! The scholarship offers up to 75.000 SEK for bachelor students to realize a project of their own design, abroad. Our project is entitled “Speak up! Solutions to Symptoms of Gender Inequality” and the object was to identify teaching methods successful in creating a more equal classroom. The final product of our project is a teacher’s guide on how to make everyone participate in class and it will be put in classrooms at SSE and at other Swedish schools. Since awareness is key, we hope that our guide will not only provide practical advice, but also serve as an everyday reminder for teachers that their behaviour has real and lasting impact on their students.
After the gathering of some horrifying data on male/female participation at SSE and Swedish middle schools, we set out for New York in search for something less discouraging. Although the American middle schools that we visited were dominated by the same behavioural patterns as in Sweden, we met some incredible teachers that used different methods to equalize their classrooms. Across the Atlantic we finally got to observe a classroom where the female students spoke just as much as the male students. Additionally, we visited Columbia University and had, amongst other things, a particularly insightful conversation with Shamus Khan, professor of sociology.
All in all we had a great time during our three weeks in NYC and have had a an exciting time as members in the GELS-network so far. We have learnt a lot, not only about gender equality in classrooms, but also about ourselves and how to conduct a project. We strongly encourage anyone with a curious mind to apply for the scholarship!
If you have any questions about GELS or our project, feel free to contact any of us or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you can attend the information lunch on October 10th in room 520 and find more information on https://www.hhs.se/en/education/global-opportunities/gels-scholarship-2/