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Revisiting The Idea Of Co-education: Transcending The Classroom Which Is Sexed And Sexist

Posted: August 21, 2020

Stereotypes associated with gender roles is not helping the system of co-education to transcend its boundaries.

Bell hooks stated that education is freedom and it must transgress its boundaries to bring the intersectional and marginalized voices to the feminist epicenter. Wollstonecraft emphasized the need for co-education so as to promote equality among both men and women. Even though, co-education seems to be not-so-problematic concept but often, the idea of co-education is both sexed and sexist due to the hierarchies operating in institutions which are responsible for liberating minds.

Importance of critical thinking

Thinking independently can only be promoted if the learners have the choice and freedom to participate during interactions. While talking about education, it is equally important to understand if classrooms are merely confinement places for voices which are dissident. Resistance and dissidence are not encouraged in most classrooms but both of these factors are equally important for developing critical thinking.

The voices which are not enough critical cannot solve real problems because learners are not exposed to brutal realities which have shaped their lives with respect to others. Education, which is not helping the learners and teachers to grow and shape futures in a manner which is critical for democratic nation building is no education at all.

Looking beyond static gender roles

When I say that the problem of co-education is sexed what I mean is, it is restricting voices to defined two sexes: male and female. Thus, often the idea of co-education is restrictive in terms of acknowledging gender. Education system itself is based upon biological essentialism which does not transcend the boundary of being a male or a female. The idea of co-education refuses to embrace sexualities underneath the school uniform which refuses to support cross-dressing due to existing and pre-defined social regulations and cultural norms.

Stereotypes associated with gender roles is not helping the system of co-education to transcend its boundaries. Thus, classroom spaces are spaces for students who are from upper class, upper caste, heterosexual and privileged backgrounds. For instance, when I was pursuing my higher secondary from one of the affluent schools in India with hostel facility, I could notice how heterosexual girls used to abuse a lesbian couple in the hostel. Even the warden and two female sports teachers overthrew one of them, giving the excuse of her notoriety.

Most of the students residing in the hostel believed that both the girls are hysteric and for a substantive amount of time, their unusual relationship was mocked. Thus, we need to observe if co-education is liberating our conventional mindsets. It is quite difficult to comment upon how education itself is based out of social pretense of socially located knowledge system.

Unlearning sexism

When I say that co-education is sexist then I am trying to address the androcentric attire which a classroom wears due to presumed stereotypes pertaining to gender roles and the process of socialization within classroom settings. Often, I have seen sexism in classrooms which take toll on the aspirations of girls.

During my fieldwork for my dissertation, most of the students believed that math and physics should be taught only by male teachers while the teachers commented that boys are preferably better than girls in sciences. These prejudices have been enshrined in the mindsets.

The “nature vs nurture” logic

Studies on brain differences might support these hypotheses but socialization negates it all and states that process of accessing knowledge depends on inclusive and collaborative learning and teaching methods. But, in most classrooms, participatory methods of teaching and learning are not even taken into consideration. Thus, it is important to notice if classrooms are inclusive spaces for voices which have remained marginalized for centuries now.

Education needs to bring marginalized voices to center otherwise, wishful ignorance might endanger the conceptualization of democracy. Weakening of democracy would lead to imperialism which would stake lives for its own prevalence. Co-education should transcend beyond getting sexed and sexist. Thus, education should not be a substitute for equality but it should be treated as a system where inclusivity of voices matter.

Image source: Pexels

I pursued my post graduation in Women's Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences,

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