Hypatia - State of the Art of Gender in STEM

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The present document constitutes a specific mapping of how gender is addressed in the current STEM curricula in 14 EU countries. It is based on the analysis of the official 9th grade curricula for physics and biology for the 14 countries, and informed by official guidelines for teachers and head teachers as well as EU publications and research reports. Bearing in mind that the present report has several important limitations related to the collection and analysis of these documents, its three main findings are the following:

First, two dominant discourses are identified in the science curricula of the 14 countries: An abstract discourse, based on the internal logic of the discipline, and a socio-scientific discourse, based on the human and societal applications of the discipline. Across countries, the abstract, discipline-based discourse is most strongly present in the physics curricula, while the socio-scientific discourse is more present in the biology curricula. Nonetheless, the majority of countries employ the abstract, discipline-based discourse in their curricula. This has implications for the gender-inclusiveness of those disciplines.

Second, there seem to be few official guidelines available for teachers on the gender-inclusive teaching of science. The majority of the documents that do exist take a postmodern feminist approach to science education, or to education more broadly. In other words, the majority of teacher guidelines implicitly or explicitly consider the differences in between science learners of the same sex to be as important as the differences between the two sexes, and make corresponding recommendations for teaching practices. While this in itself is encouraging for the status of gender-inclusive science education in Europe, the scarcity of such documents seems discouraging.

Third, guidelines for gender-inclusion in out-of-school science education seem almost non-existent; from the 14 EU countries, just one document was found.

Taken together, the gender-polarised nature of the dominant discourses of many European science curricula and the relative scarcity of guidelines for teachers and other educators on how to conduct gender-inclusive teaching seems to indicate that there is work yet to be done to make science education gender inclusive across Europe. However, the findings presented in the present report may be subject to change over time, as Hypatia’s knowledge-sharing network becomes better.

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