This blog looks at how recent textbook reforms in Viet Nam have worked to improve gender equality. It is part of a series of blogs on this site published to encourage debates around a new GEM Report Policy Paper: Between the Lines, which looks at the content of textbooks and how it reflects some of the key concepts in Target 4.7 in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
By Mr. Tran Kim Tu, Vice Director of the Department of Teachers and Education Administrators of the Ministry of Education and Training and Vice Chairman of the Committee for the Advancement of Women in the Education Sector
Textbooks and curricula contain more than just facts and figures that should be learnt at school: they hold the transformative power to shape the attitudes, beliefs and values of children and young people of all ages and backgrounds.
These educational tools serve as a repository for the diverse knowledge we hope to transfer to our students through literature, history, science, mathematics and many other subjects in Viet Nam, empowering our citizens to cultivate the knowledge, skills and attitudes that are conducive to inclusive and equitable learning and environmental awareness.
However, the development of good textbooks and curricula is a never-ending process that requires constant revision, upgrading and improvement. Despite Viet Nam’s progress to eliminate gender disparities and achieve gender equality in education, gender discrimination and bias still remain prevalent in many different forms, one of which is through textbooks.
In recognition of this, the Vietnamese Education Sector has taken action to develop recommendations for gender-sensitive strategies and policies; enhance the capacity and awareness of thousands of educational managers, teachers and students on gender equality; and to equip education officials at all levels with knowledge and skills related to mainstreaming gender equality into educational planning, management and policy-making.
Viet Nam’s Actions towards Gender Equality in Textbook and Curricula
Recognizing that gender inequality is one of the main underlying challenges to the eradication of poverty in the country, which creates a barrier to the country’s sustainable development, the Vietnamese Party and Government have issued a number of directives and policies, and have ratified international conventions that support gender equality.
These commitments include the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Education for All (EFA) Goals, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and now, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
At the national level, the Viet Nam National Strategy on Gender Equality (NSGE) for the 2011-2020 Period specifically targets goals on gender equality in education and training, labour and employment and the enhancement of management capacities on gender equality. Goal No. 3 of the NSGE specifies reviewing textbook content and images and removing gender stereotypes, as well as implementing gender mainstreaming in education policies, programmes and plans.
A substantive contribution to the NSGE is the Ministry of Education and Training’s (MOET) Action Plan on Gender Equality of the Education Sector for the 2012-2015 Period, which established six objectives for the achievement of Gender Equality in all areas and levels of education, in both policy and practice. Objective number 5 aims to remove gender prejudiced contents from curricula, general textbooks and teaching materials, and objective number 6 continues efforts to develop the understanding of gender and gender equality amongst staff working in the Education Sector .
Following the MOET’s Decision on issuing the 2012-2015 Action Plan on Gender Equality, and to develop the Post-2015 Action Plan on Gender Equality of the Education Sector, the MOET and UNESCO have worked together on the 2015 – 2017 Gender Equality and Girls’ Education Initiative in Viet Nam.
This Initiative aims to mainstream gender in order to support an enabling environment for the implementation of the legal right of girls and women to education. Additionally, it is aligned with Viet Nam’s Project on the Renovation of Curriculum and Textbooks for General Education, approved by the Prime Minister in March 2015.
The Gender Equality Initiative is composed of the following four components:
- Enhancing the capacity of the Education Sector to ensure gender equality in planning and management, and to increase access to quality education for girls and women, including those in disadvantaged and vulnerable situations.
- Mainstreaming gender in curriculum and textbook development, and teaching practices.
- Raising awareness of gender equality and girls’ education among students, parents, community members and the media.
- Monitoring, reporting and communicating on the Initiative to promote gender mainstreaming in Viet Nam and other countries.
Change by 2020
Viet Nam is committed to achieving gender equality and realising the SDGs. Through our continuous efforts, curriculum and textbook developers will have enhanced their capacity to recognise gender biases and stereotypes in teaching content and to mainstream gender equality and eliminate gender stereotypes by 2020. The gap in access to opportunities and decision-making power for women and men will decrease, empowering each individual to pursue careers they choose, and not to be limited by jobs determined to be feminine or masculine.
Girls and women across the nation, especially those in rural or ethnic minorities, will have increased opportunities for economic participation, and access to basic and higher education. Such developments will have a ripple effect, promoting girls and women’s health, reducing safety risks and increasing the productivity of their families, communities and country.
It is our responsibility, as the government and as advocates of education, to strive towards mainstreaming gender equality and eliminating all signs of gender bias, stereotypes and discrimination in all of its forms from our teaching content and practices, and from all our learning establishments. Through gender equality, sustainable and inclusive progress can be achieved in all aspects of society.