Gender is one of the factors which pose a limit in maximizing the acquisition of knowledge (McIntyre, p.80), both practical and theoretical, in the academic institutions such as schools. More particularly, gender plays a difference in student access and teacher attention in the classroom. It does not only limit the interaction from among students and teachers, it also limits the attention teachers give and students receive. This research is specifically aimed at identifying and analyzing the ways gender demarcates student access and teacher attention in the classroom setup through a critical appraisal of the various elements that contribute to it.
Gender is considered to be the femaleness or maleness of individuals (Pearson, p. 328), and these individuals include both students and teachers. On the other hand, classrooms are primarily the basic unit of the academic institution in terms of the aggregate of the students and teachers operating within the academic setup. This setup initially consists of learners or students, and facilitators of learning such as the teachers. What precisely are the ways in which gender plays a difference in student access and teacher attention within the classroom setup?
In order to arrive at the probable ways and the related explanations behind these ways, it is imperative to consider several societal forces which contribute to these differences as well as the several other institutional forces commonly existing in schools. The role of forces in the society The setup of the society starting from earlier times has been observed to be dominated by males. In this sense, the society in earlier times is thought to be as a patriarchal one where male dominance sets the general structure as well as the particularities in the society (Kane, p.421).
It can be noted that this previous setup of the society has had a profound impact in the present generation. And the profound impacts are quite observable in many ways. For instance, there are occupations wherein males are more preferred over females for several reasons (Lopata and Thorne, p. 718) which may include physical capabilities. These and other preferences based on certain factors will be further considered in the latter part of the paper.
What is important to consider for now is the fact that preferences based on gender have been a result of the patriarchal domination especially in the past, and that this societal setup, whether or not it still exists today, has resulted to certain effects in contemporary times. Having an earlier patriarchal society resulted to an imbalance in gender roles (McCallops, p. 408). Males may have been given more roles and active participation whereas females may have shared a lesser fraction of participation. As a result, a disruption in the roles has paved the way for an imbalance in gender roles.
However, it should be noted that the focus of the research is not to expound on the historical events that created this imbalance but rather to use this observation as the basis for the more contemporary gender differences in student access and teacher attention in the classroom. Apparently, more modern waves of changes have transpired. Feminist theories have countered the persistence of male dominance and have given more weight on the role of women. In this sense, it can be presumed that male and female students and teachers have been affected by these shifts in the society.
A male student may have the consciousness that male dominance has existed in the past (Lopata and Thorne, p. 720) and is being challenged today. On the other hand, a female teacher may all the more break away from the patriarchal tradition by giving an equal share of participation between male and female students within the classroom. Nevertheless, whether or not the patriarchal setup of the society has been eradicated or gradually broken down, it remains a fact that there are gender delineations spread across classrooms in many parts of the world (Acker, p.
565). For instance, physical education activities have manifested the separation of roles between male and female students in the classroom. Physically daunting tasks such as lifting heavy objects designed to improve the body are more challenging among males than females precisely because males are given more of the weight of the challenges. This is especially true in countries where tradition declares that males should do more of the physical laboring (Kane and Macaulay, p. 5).
This in turn results to differences in student access in the classroom in the sense that males appear to acquire more space in participating in physically challenging tasks in the classroom although females also share a part in this. It may be an all too simple occurrence with presumably a minimal significance, but the fact is that it reinforces the gender differences even more. Female students, on the other hand, share more of the classroom activities with limited physical requirements such as designing or planning activities although males also share a part in these activities.
This is not to say that either male or female students are simply confined within the prescribed roles they are encouraged or even forced to perform. What is being shown is the fact that there are gender preferences in the classroom roles male and female students are engaged into which spell the difference in student access. Homosexuality is another issue that has a relevance to the issue of differences in student access.
There are societies which have a strong inclination to condemn homosexuality (McCallops, p.409) such as those in Iran although there, too, are countries which have an open acceptance of homosexuality such as the Netherlands. This also has an impact on the student access in classrooms depending upon where the school is to be found. More specifically, religious schools which have a strict compliance with conservative religious dogma might have a negative stance towards students who are homosexuals (Martin and Little, p. 1428). This may lead to limited access for students who are either gays or lesbians in terms of participation in classroom activities.
The opposite may be true of schools which are liberal, learning institutions which do not discriminate in terms of gender and gender preference. In contrast to conservative schools, it may lead to a much broader participation for homosexuals in the classroom which heightens their access within the learning environment. Institutional factors It is a fact that there are aspects in the learning institutions where gender demarcations are clearly exhibited (Blee, p. 163).
These demarcations arise out of necessity simply because without these gender demarcations certain disorders may manifest. One of these demarcations among numerous institutions is comfort room. How is this related to student access and teacher attention in the classroom? The answer to this question rests on the basic premise that one small thing leads to another. To put it more precisely, the necessity of putting up separate comfort rooms for males and females, specifically among students, reinforces the consciousness of gender separation.
Although the need to separate comfort rooms is perhaps an accepted need, it nevertheless reinforces the belief in the male-female demarcation (Kane and Macaulay, p. 21). Even school uniforms contribute in a way to the clear gender demarcation. It should be reminded that this research does not contend the removal of these necessities but rather this research proposes the use of these gender demarcations as part of the number of hindrances in student access and teacher attention in the classroom.
With these necessities, the classroom access of male and female students is hindered in terms of the reinforced belief in gender separation. And because of the individual performances of each student, the accessibility is either hindered or promoted all the more. For instance, a passive male student is more prompted to keep away from the attention of the teacher and to minimize interaction with other students because there is no compelling reason or stimulus that will prompt him to do otherwise.
The separation of genders out of necessity further reinforces this consciousness (Ackers, p.568) as the passive male student becomes more and more absorbed into the thought of these demarcations which separate him not only from the rest of the male students but also from the female students. As mentioned earlier, subjects that need much physical exertion of force such physical education subjects give more emphasis to the male capacity to perform the related physical tasks in the subject (Blee, p. 165), allowing for a limited participation from amongst female students. On the other hand, in cases where females have higher physical fitness to engage in physically challenging activities, the same may also be true.
Moreover, gender preference in choosing teachers also contributes to the role of gender in teacher attention in the classroom. There are certain curriculum subjects wherein female teachers are more preferred over males (Martin and Little, p. 1430) such as subjects with the content of feminist studies, female reproductive system or the anatomy of females, and psychology of women just to name a few. On the other hand, there are also curriculum subjects wherein male teachers are more preferred over females.
For instance, male instructors teaching the subject of male psychology may either have more attention towards male students in order to assess the knowledge or learning of these males with respect to the scope of the subject, or have more attention towards female students in order to assess the reactions and the absorbed knowledge of these students learned throughout the course of the subject. Moreover, it may also be the case that female students tend to be more responsive in terms of the interaction of female students (Tobach and Carlin, p. 1595) as they are able to relate more with one another in terms of gender.
The opposite may also be true of male teachers and male students although there may also be cases wherein the reverse is true. Nevertheless, this only shows that gender plays a difference in teacher attention as well as student access in the classroom setup. Conclusion The school is one of the many social institutions intended to broaden the knowledge of students within the classroom and beyond, and gender is one of the numerous factors that share a role in student accessibility and teacher attention. Gender demarcations may arise out of necessity or out of artificial arrangements.
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