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Viet Nam - Textbook review from gender perspective


(UN/Government of Viet Nam Joint Programme on Gender equality /JPGe, 2009/2010)

The primary education textbook review and analysis project carried out by the MOET Technical Team and UNESCO Ha Noi Office with the assistance of UNESCO IBE constitutes a contribution to the empowerment of education authorities and other duty bearers to implement the gender equality laws in the realm of education. At the same time, the project represents an attempt to encourage public discussion on gender issues in education with a view toward raising the awareness of education stakeholders and the broader public. Such public discussion and debate can serve to guide more focused action aimed at eliminating gender biases in curricula, textbooks, teaching and learning practices as well as in the school and classroom management more broadly.

As in many other countries, gender equality is eyed by Vietnamese education authorities, agents and stakeholders as leverage for promoting social justice as well as individual and community development. While women and girls are usually victims of gender biases and unfair treatment, biases against men and boys also have to be carefully considered. Given its importance in supporting the development of accomplished and confident individuals, as well as of cohesive and just communities, gender equality is central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

While aware that textbooks represent only one component of the (written) curriculum and that learning is influenced by many other factors (such as classroom methodologies; learning environment; out-of-school factors), the research team stresses the importance of textbooks in the Vietnamese society as vehicles for the development of social representations, such as gender biases. They can, however, also be used as tools for promoting gender equality. Consequently, the present study advocates for textbook revision from a gender perspective as an important leverage to promote gender equality for individual and social/community development. To this important and noble end, well-designed and implemented textbooks can indeed make a difference.

Gender biases in textbooks are harmful because they perpetuate false and unfair images about women and men in explicit or more subtle ways, giving or reaffirming learners’ false ideas about gender differences. The main findings of the textbook analysis clearly demonstrate that all of the textbooks reviewed contain both examples of gender biases, as well as examples of good practices that integrate gender dimensions and promote gender equality within their respective learning areas. This mixed picture of how primary education textbooks promote gender equality is evidence of: (1) efforts to avoid gender biases in textbooks; and (2) the need for awareness raising and capacity building to be addressed in the context of the projected comprehensive textbook revision processes to take place in Viet Nam around 2015.

See: UNESCO Ha Noi, UNESCO-IBE & Viet Nam MOET. 2010. Report of findings. Primary education textbook analysis from gender perspective. (to be published in 2012)

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