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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Just thinking about a transitional approach to gender equality right education Kulpas, Kathleen Isobel Wilk


This paper investigates access for young people to knowledge about gender equality rights through the schools. A review of school curricula, academic research, government reports, public legal education publications, law-related symposia, gender equity conference papers, and youth projects did not produce a clear picture of how young people are being educated about gender equality rights. An additional investigation into the informal curriculum and the school culture would be required if we are to find out if knowledge about gender equality rights reaches young people through the schools. A modified version of a Delphi study was used to gather some ideas about the purpose, goals and objectives of gender equality rights education in the schools. Twenty socially representative educators, legal professionals and feminists participated in the study. Participants were selected for their knowledge of gender equality rights. In all cases, their job, or life experience and education, or position on a relevant task force or committee provided them with substantive knowledge of gender equality rights. One of the main findings of the Delphi study is that while there is no consensus amongst the participants about the details of comprehensive gender equality rights education, there is agreement that it cannot be left to chance occurence. More harm than good may result from a laissez-faire approach to gender equality rights education because such an approach does not allow for a full discussion of how social, political, and economic systems in society discriminate against women. Without such a context, we cannot fully understand gender equality rights, or the changes to society that have come about because of the gender equality rights movement. Conversely, a structured approach through the formal and informal curriculum, and the school culture, would allow for views about gender equality to be raised in an informed way. Many of the ideas of the participants parallel the substantive goals and objectives of law-related education. There is one major exception which is discussed at length. It concerns the openly ideological nature of gender equality rights education. Long range plans to institutionalize substantive gender equality rights education in the schools is needed. One way to bring this about is to increase academic research into legal literacy and gender equality. But the greatest urgency is in the short term. We need a co-ordinated effort between the schools, Ministries of Education and the Attorney General, the public legal education network and gender equality rights advocates to ensure that accurate information about gender equality rights is accessible to all young people in a useful way. The first challenge in educating about gender equality rights in the schools is to make a start so that young people do not leave school without some knowledge of important changes for women that are going on in society. The transitional approach that I recommend to gender equality rights education would implement strategies that allow us time to get a clearer picture of what gender equality rights education exists in schools now; identify immediate objectives that we can attain quickly and that would lay the foundation for more comprehensive goals; help young people recognize the impact of gender inequality in their own lives; and let them know that educated people care about social and legal equality for women.

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