Written Answers. - Elimination of Sexism.


asked the Minister for Education if she will give details of each programme for the elimination of sexism in education which she has undertaken to date since taking office; the cost to the Exchequer of each programme; the method of monitoring the programmes and measuring the success which is employed; and the specific plans she is drawing up in her Department for the equalisation of opportunity for girls and boys as part of the preparation for 1992.

1. It is the ongoing policy of my Department to eliminate sexism and sex-stereotyping in the education sector. A working group monitors and co-ordinates activities within the Department relating to equality of educational opportunity for girls and boys.

2. The need to avoid sexism and sex-stereotyping in schools continues to be stressed at in-service courses for teachers and school principals organised by the Department — a module on "Sexism and Sex-Stereotyping in Primary Education" was included in all in-service courses for primary teachers organised by inspectors in Summer 1988. The matter is also generally raised at discussions with the principal and staff prior to submission by the inspector of a school report. A total of 736 school reports were furnished in the school year 1986-87 and 607 in 1987-88.

3. Issues relating to gender equity continue to be covered generally in in-service courses for post-primary teachers as well as specific seminars and courses being organised in this area.

4. In 1986 the previous Government spent only £24,000 on equality programmes in the education sector.

5. In 1987 a total of £60,000 approx. was spent on the following programmes:

(a) EC Action Programme to promote equal opportunities for girls and boys in education and which had, as its theme, "Equal Opportunities for Girls and Boys in Education". Travel prizes, consisting of a week's stay in Brussels, were awarded by the Commission to the four winning entrants from Ireland. They travelled to Brussels in September where they had an opportunity to meet prize-winners from Spain, Portugal and Greece.

(b) An Action-Research Project designed to stimulate the interest and encourage the participation of girls in school activities related to the new technologies.

This project was grant-aided by the EC. The cost to the Department in 1987 of the EC assisted projects at (a) and (b) above was approximately £21,000.

(c) Pilot intervention projects in physics and in chemistry were extended in September 1987, to include six regions. In the year 1986-87 four schools had been involved in the projects, the aim of which is to encourage more girls in senior-cycle second-level education to study the physical sciences. Expenditure on these projects in 1987 was £29,000 approximately.

(d) A programme to provide grants for mature women students is operated by my Department. Grants of £1,000 each are awarded to ten mature women students who have already completed at least one year of a higher level course and who are either unemployed or in poor financial circumstances. The total cost of the scheme was £10,000 in 1987.

6. In 1988 in addition to the £10,000 allocated for grants to mature women students a total of £54,000 approximately was allocated to fund the following equality projects.

(a) The Action Research Project initiated in 1987 to stimulate interest and encourage girls to participate in school activities related to the new technologies was continued in 1988. Four schools representative of the main kinds of second level schools are involved in the project. The cost in 1988 to the Department was approximately £12,000.

(b) The Pilot Intervention Projects in physics and in chemistry was extended to ten regions for the 1988-89 school year. The cost of these projects to the Department in 1988 was £42,000 approximately.

7. In 1988 both of the above projects were monitored by experienced evaluators.In evaluating the Action Research Project a combination of techniques was adopted in conducting the evaluation including:

(i) Pre and post-questionnaire surveys of pupils in the project and of matching groups of control pupils (usually in non-project schools).

(ii) Interviews were carried out with the parents of some of the participating pupils.

(iii) A questionnaire survey of all teachers in the four project schools.

The evaluation strategy used by the evaluators of the Pilot Intervention Projects in physics and in chemistry included:

(i) study of documentation (Department reports, etc.) available;

(ii) classroom observation and inspection of facilities;

(iii) unstructured interviews with school principals, teachers and pupils;

(iv) questionnaire survey of pupils and teachers.

8. In 1989 a total of £115,000 approximately will be allocated to the following equality programmes:

(i) Programme of Grants for Mature Women Students;

(ii) Action Research Project Programme as for 1988;

(iii) Pilot Intervention Projects in physics and in chemistry as for 1988;

(iv) Pre and inservice teacher training projects in the primary and post-primary sectors. The agencies co-operating with the Department of Education in the implementation of these projects are:—

(a) St. Patrick's College of Education, Drumcondra, Dublin.

(b) Thomond College of Education.

(c) Department of Education, University College, Dublin.

(d) Teachers' Union of Ireland.

(v) Research project to examine aspects of gender equality in primary and post-primary education.

Projects at (ii), (iii) and (iv) will qualify for EC funding in 1989.

9. A working group on the elimination of sexism and sex-stereotyping in textbooks and teaching materials has been established in 1988 at primary level representative of the Department of Education, school management, the INTO and the National Parents' Council. Its terms of reference are to examine the level of sexism and sex-stereotyping in textbooks and teaching materials, to make recommendations for its elimination on a phased basis taking due account of the need for restraint in public expenditure and to monitor progress in the area. The working group has carried out an examination of the guidelines for publishers in this area, has made a study of the course in conversational Irish and is also examining the research available on the topic of sexism in teaching materials. A proposal will be submitted to the equality committee in my Department shortly.

10. The continued evaluation and monitoring of the above projects and in particular the findings of the research project at (v) above will be used to formulate future plans and strategies to eliminate sexism and sex-stereotyping in the Irish Education system. In addition, the Review Body on the Primary Curriculum and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment have been required to ensure that sexism and sex-stereotyping be eliminated from school curricula and that such curricula prepare pupils for their future roles in society.

Officials from my Department attend meetings in Brussels which are convened by the EC to discuss equality issues in education and to formulate plans and strategies for the Council of Ministers. In this way my Department can significantly influence developments in this area and ensure that the output from the Irish education sector can fully avail of the opportunities which will be theirs in a post-1992 Europe.