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Is there more than just symbolic statements?: Gender equality as part of Swedish state educational politics
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education.
2005 (English)In: Tidskrift för lärarutbildning och forskning, ISSN 1404-7659, no 3, 103-130 p.Article in journal (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

Sweden is, in terms of gender equality, a country with an international reputation as a progressive country. This paper reports on an analysis of gender equality as part of Swedish state educational politics with a special focus on early years’ education. The first part of the paper is an introduction while the second part concentrates on the documentary analysis itself with the focal point being the period 1994–2004. The Swedish version of gender equality, jämställdhet, is visible in policy statements in different documents. Some statements are in line with more feminist interpretations while the formulations in the legally binding documents tend to be more open-ended. Concrete state measures aimed at achieving gender equality are generally more limited. Two stable foci are: getting more male staff into early years’ education and more girls into science and engineering. The mid 1990s onwards saw an increased emphasis on early years’ education and on gender equality.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Fakultetsnämnden för lärarutbildning vid Umeå universitet , 2005. no 3, 103-130 p.
Keyword [en]
gender equality, preschool, state educational politics
National Category
Pedagogical Work
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-36952OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-36952DiVA: diva2:356880
Available from: 2010-10-14 Created: 2010-10-14 Last updated: 2010-10-14Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Samma, lika, alla är unika: En analys av jämställdhet i förskolepolitik och praktik
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Samma, lika, alla är unika: En analys av jämställdhet i förskolepolitik och praktik
2010 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
The same, similar, all are unique : An analysis of gender equality in preschool policy and practice
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to describe, critically analyse and provide information about gender equality in Swedish preschools, in relation to policy and practice. The main focus is on pedagogues’ gender equality work with children. The study includes a comparison between state gender equality policy in Scottish and Swedish preschools. The theoretical starting point for the analysis is a policy and gender perspective. Based on Bacchis’ (1999) and Marshalls’ (1997) work suggesting that gender equality policy issues and problems are socially constructed, a contrasting analytical framework is devised and used in the analysis. The main emphasis in the analysis of gender equality constructions is on underlying assumptions, competing constructions and “areas of silence”, relating to what is missing from a gender perspective. There is also some consideration of the agreement between constructions and concrete measures.

The time-period studied was from the end of the 1960s onwards; emphasis was placed on the last fifteen years. The main empirical data consists of: Swedish and Scottish state official policy documents and interviews with Scottish researchers; Swedish local authority official documents and interviews with local authority officials from four municipalities; and interviews with pedagogues from three work-teams in three preschools. This information is complemented with documentation about the preschools’ gender equality work.

In state preschool policy, pedagogues are depicted both as part of the solution to the gender equality problem but also part of the problem because there are “too few men”. Local authorities consider that pedagogues need more knowledge about gender equality. The pedagogues themselves make a distinction between the past, when their treatment of children was founded on gender-based stereotypes, and the present, in which they are aware but need to keep up the work.

In both Swedish preschool policy and practice, gender equality has mainly focused on treating girls and boys similarly, based on assumptions that this is desirable; and this is still the approach. This similarity discourse has been quite constant in Swedish state policy since the 1960s. One exception, however, was the attention to biological differences which gained influence in the mid 1990s in policies mainly relating to compulsory schooling. Gender equality is, with respect to both policy and practice, largely constructed as a pedagogical preschool issue. Discussions about wider society mainly concern the public sphere and the labour market, whilst the private sphere is seldom considered. Children are mainly positioned as “girls” or “boys” and as recipients of pedagogues’ gender equality measures. In general, little consideration is given to hierarchies and variations among groups of girls or boys, or about intersections between gender and other socially constructed categories. Intersections were most clearly visible in practice, especially in one preschool studied; they concern gender equality, age and space. Issues concerning power and gender order are usually missing, and there seems to be a clear influence of gender role theories.

Even though there is clear current emphasis on increased similarities, there is a tension concerning whether gender equality is about treating everybody exactly the same, treating everybody in quite similar ways or treating children as unique individuals. This also involves a tension relating to whether gender equality concerns girls and boys as individuals, or as groups, or both. The study demonstrated that the emphasis on gender equality is stronger in the constructions than in concrete measures. In practice, work-teams’ discussions about gender equality were more nuanced than the somewhat compensatory methods that these practitioners applied during their work with the children.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Institutionen för Naturvetenskapernas och matematikens didaktik, Umeå universitet, 2010. 74 p.
Series
Doktorsavhandlingar i pedagogiskt arbete, ISSN 1650-8858 ; 36
Keyword
preschool, gender equality, state policies, local authority policies, practice, pedagogues, children, Sweden, Scotland, förskola, jämställdhet, statlig politik, kommunalpolitik, praktik, pedagoger, barn, Sverige, Skottland
National Category
Pedagogical Work
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-36969 (URN)978-91-7459-078-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-11-05, Naturvetarhuset, N320, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2010-10-14 Created: 2010-10-14 Last updated: 2015-02-05Bibliographically approved

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Edström, Charlotta

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