The Kindergarten is the first official educational institution for children. The children arrive at the Kindergarten having already acquired their gender identity, through their family. They bring with them certain perceptions, stereotypical perceptions, about the different roles and behaviors of the two sexes and as a rule they revive them. As already mentioned, not only they categorize people based on their gender, but also attribute specific objects and activities to men or women:
- "Feminine" objects or activities, such as a handkerchief, a skirt, washing dishes, cooking
- "Men's" objects or activities such as a suit, a tool, watching football.
Also, they separate and distinguish the professions into "female" and "male", nurse - female, doctor - male, kindergarten teacher - female, car mechanic - male.
Related research also show that both parents and kindergarten teachers - without even realizing it - treat girls and boys in such a way that they are encouraged to behave according to the socially accepted stereotypes of their gender, stereotypes that they carry and the teachers themselves. This can happen, involuntarily or voluntarily, from the way they organize and spatially shape the activity areas in the room, the choice of logistics, the verbal or non-verbal communication they develop with the children, the differentiated characterizations they use for the boys and girls, motivation to choose and engage in different games and types of activities that "fit" more with their gender∗.
The Kindergarten, as a body of socialization of the child, can contribute to its socialization in terms of the role of gender in various ways and practices, such as:
- assigning different activities to boys and girls according to their interests and abilities and not based on gender;
- equal participation of all in the classroom, whether it is role-playing games, yard games, computer use, or engaging in routine activities such as cleaning and tidying up the classroom;
- the grouping of children in the educational process not on the basis of gender but on the basis of the cooperation of children with similar abilities and other times with different ones, depending on the goal of the group;
- the interaction of the peer group on an equal footing;
- the use of books free of racial or other standards;
- the use of pedagogical material based on the common interests of boys and girls;
- its staffing with teachers of both sexes. In Greece the presence of the male Kindergarten teacher is almost invisible.
It is therefore necessary to educate, train and raise awareness of incumbent teachers, educators, on gender and equality issues, but also to encourage school units to implement prevention and information programs on gender equality.
Another important factor in promoting equality in preschool is parents. Parents, or other family members, give different toys to boys and girls, from a very early age, and encourage them to engage in different activities for both sexes. It is therefore necessary to raise parents’ awareness on issues of promoting equality and prevention of gender-based violence.
In conclusion, we can say that the promotion of gender equality is not just an issue for girls and women: it concerns boys, men, but also society in all its forms and touches every aspect of our lives. Gender equality can be the starting point for progress and democracy, by building an equal partnership between boys and girls, men and women. Preventing gender-based violence and combating gender stereotypes can and should begin in preschool, through playful collaborative learning processes. The use of fairy tales could be one of the ways to introduce and present the many social roles that girls and boys, women and men can play when they have equal access to education,
Addressing and reconstructing prejudices and gender stereotypes is a process that concerns everyone, parents-teachers-society. It is a complex process, which must start from preschool age and continue with lifelong learning and education at all ages.
∗ Presentation: Pedagogical practices and gender identities in Kindergarten. Kotronidou Ioanna, Teacher PE60, M. Sc. Management and Evaluation of Educational Units, Proceedings of the Hellenic Institute of Applied Pedagogy and Education (HELLIEPEK), 6th Panhellenic Conference, 5-7 October 2012
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