Addressing gender equity, technology issues in global classrooms

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by Shay Carroll

This spring, BGSU welcomed teachers from 21 countries to participate in an intensive six-week education and gender equity professional development program on campus.

Throughout the program, the teachers worked alongside faculty and staff in BGSU’s College of Education and Human Development; shared their culture with students through an international café; and  collaborated with U.S. partner teachers in Northwest Ohio schools, including Toledo School for the Arts, Sylvania, Perrysburg, Gibsonburg and Marion City Schools.

This program functions as part of the Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) Program, a professional development program funded by the U.S. Department of State. Dr. Sharon Subreenduth, School of Teaching & Learning, has directed this program for six years.

BGSU is one of only four colleges in the country to host this program each spring, and it’s the only one with a gender equity-themed cohort. Teachers from as far away as India, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Nigeria and Zimbabwe learned new teaching and instructional strategies to take back to their home countries, helping them to become more effective educators by addressing issues of gender equity in their schools.

Most of the international teachers said they are trying to find more ways to get girls into their classrooms. Several noted that rural classrooms in particular have a large gap between female and male attendance, and they discussed strategies to encourage girls to go to school. “It’s usually only children from the more privileged families who can attend school,” Samethamby Prapajiny, a teacher from Sri Lanka, explained.  

To fix this, the teachers pledged to engage their governments at higher levels so that together they will empower more girls to attend school. One of the consistent themes of their discussions was the need to build more schools in rural areas that would be easier for the general population to access.

“I think it’s about changing gender roles that already exist,” Manisha Pavi, a teacher from India, said. “We want to address equity on the macro aspect, because that’s the only way change can be made.” In addition to gender disparities, the teachers addressed the secondary issue of technology. Even when technology in their home countries is available, they said, it is not used as much in class. Some of the educators said that they felt their students would benefit from technology being used for more hands-on learning as well as for better information access.

A common theme among the teachers was the “friendliness” of classrooms here, with U.S. teachers and students being open to sharing ideas and communicating in both conversation and activities. “I think it’s a reflection of the system,” Chynara Zhumagulova, a teacher from Kyrgyzstan, said. “It’s about instruction and understanding by design.”

Several educators have taken this to heart, making plans to increase the level and depth of student participation in their classrooms when they returned. Teachers discussed ways to switch group roles among the students, making sure that everyone has a part to play and is able to experience as many roles as possible. “We want to come up with more problem-solving activities and projects,” Abayomi Abodunrin, a teacher from Nigeria, said. “We want to think of new ways to learn in the classroom.”