How ‘Respectful Relationships lessons have impacted kids
Victorian boys and girls changed the toys they wanted to play with and their future jobs after gender awareness training and a school library "audit", a study has found.
Deakin University research shows children are more aware of gender issues and bias after six months of respectful relationships lessons and an overhaul of their library books and sporting equipment.
Analysis of the impact of the Victorian government's Respectful Relationships classes on 200 grade one and two students showed improvement of their gender awareness and stereotyping.
The study comes amid a City of Melbourne program that suggests educators avoid terms such as "boys and girls" and moves in universities to replace mother with "gestational parent" and father with "non-birthing parent".
Part of the Respectful Relationships lessons involved an audit of libraries and sport equipment to assess the reinforcement of gender stereotypes.
"It is likely that being exposed to non-stereotyped images may have contributed to the observed change in gender attitudes," lead author Associate Professor Debbie Ollis from Deakin University said.
As part of the lessons, the children had to discuss and challenge popular beliefs such as "girls can't play football" and "boys can't cook". Lessons included stories about a girl who wanted to play cricket but was told she should play netball and a boy who loved to dance. Gender-based violence was presented through discussion of comments such as "only boys can play ball".
The lesson plan states that gender-based violence occurs when people are teased, called names, ignored and left out.
The Respectful Relationships Education program, introduced in 2015, received $37m in funding in the recent state budget. Expansion of the program was a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Associate Professor Ollis and her team found the students were "significantly less likely to consider stereotypically masculine occupations and activities as only for boys and stereotypically feminine occupations and activities as only for girls" after doing six months of the lessons.
"Results indicate that ongoing respectful relationships education could be an effective way to disrupt gender stereotyping in early primary school students," she said.
Both before and after the program, boys were more stereotypical in their views than girls, but all children shifted their views at about the same rate.
Originally published as How gender lessons have impacted young kids