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For what purpose gender-sensitivity is important?

The sex assigned to a child at birth directs more or less how one is raised, and what kind of
gendered images and models the outside world offers the child. Guiding a child toward
activities and behavior that are thought to be typical for a girl or a boy are not always
conscious decisions. That is why gender-sensitive education is first and foremost about
challenging oneself as an adult, and questioning ones own customary ways of thinking.
A gender-sensitive educator chooses a doll, a car, or building blocks for a child to play with
on the basis of which skills the toys develop, not according to the sex of the child.
Promoting gender equality offers educators means to prevent bullying, to support
friendships between the sexes and, and it also lessens the stress from gendered
expectations experienced by both children and adults.

Tips for parents

Pay attention to the characters in the fairytales you are reading to your child.
How are characters of different sexes described? What kind of characteristics do
they have? Turn traditional gender roles the other way around in your narrative
and discuss the historicity of the characters with the child.
Do not presuppose the interests of your child. When you offer your child an
opportunity for example to participate in playing with dolls or climbing, you make
it possible for the child to practice multitudinous skills, feelings, and to claim his
or her space.
Encourage your child to friendships with both sexes. If adults relate to a girl and a
boy playing together as little lovers, it may bring unnecessary tension, polarity
and confusion to the friendship.
Do you yourself talk stereotypically of men, women, boys and girls? What about
people whose gender is not clearly definable? Childrens views of what is
possible, allowed to them, or what is not even considered an option are shaped
by the understanding of gender roles in their family and among those closest to
them. Gender equality matters also later in life, not only for accepting oneself but
also others.

Follow-up project now in action!

The project offers training for early educators in gender-equality. If you became
interested, please contact:
Project manager Reija Katainen
p. 044 785 2879
Follow us in Facebook in the group Tasa-arvoinen kohtaaminen pivkodissa (Equal
encounter in nursery schools).

Gender-sensitivity in early
childhood education
equal encounter in nursery schools

Gender-sensitivity in early childhood education equal

encounter in nursery schools
The project started in 2010 with a pilot project, followed by a follow-up
project in 2012-2014. Current project will end in June 2015. It is funded by
The Ministry of Education and Culture.
The goal of the project is to promote gender-sensitive early childhood
education, to offer continuing education of equal rights -work for nursery
school employees and to influence in national documents steering early
childhood education concerning the observation of equal rights.
The project is supported by a steering group, which consists of volunteers
working in different educational institutions and employees of the partners.
The project is collaborated with Folkhlsan, the Diaconia University of
Applied Sciences, LTOL (The Association of Kindergarten Teachers in Finland),
Plan Finland, Seta LGBT Rights in Finland, SLAL (The Finnish Association of
Childcare) and OAJ (Trade Union of Education in Finland). Our partners
include also The Council of Gender Equality, TANE.

The project in a nutshell

The project started with videotaping the recurring, everyday situations in nursery
schools. Three nursery schools were recruited for the cooperation, in which several
rounds of shoots were conducted. From the videotapes, especially the actions and
interaction of the educators with the children were observed from the viewpoint of
gender equality. In common development meetings with the nursery school staff,
existing positive ways of action were focused on, and attention was paid to
development areas.
Based on observations, a continuing education program was developed and, it has
been offered for nursery schools nationwide. The continuing education includes basic
information on gender-sensitivity and on equal rights in early education, and also
offers concrete methods and tips to survey and develop ones own work
In the spring of 2014 educational web-page was
In the project phase of 2014-2015, early education professionals are trained to be
experts and follow-up trainers in qender-equality work. The goal is to create a
network of educators, and a manual to support the work of the educators. Also our
basic training at nursery schools is continuing.

What did the observation reveal?

Girls were more often than boys the unofficial little helpers of the educators.
They were asked to take and bring different objects, to act as a back-up
memory or to keep company for smaller children.
Boys were given twice as much attention, compared with the girls (for example
closeness, targeted speech), in controlled play-situations. The attention given to
children was not attached to disruptive behavior in observed situations.
Girls were expected to be independent and to take initiative, whereas boys may
have been helped, for example, in getting dressed, even when they did not ask
for help.
More attention was given to the already more talkative and quick-witted
children than to the quieter and more retiring ones.
The spatial arrangements of nursery schools did not necessarily support
childrens play in mixed groups, since the play spaces were mostly grouped
according to the theme of the play. This kind of spatial arrangement does not
necessarily support practicing various skills with the help of play, if the children
are constantly diverted to same kinds of playing situations.
The everyday life of a nursery school is often quite noisy. Intervening in
redundant noise with different means is an active measure in order to make the
sound-space more equal.
The meal situations in nursery schools were often quite equal: all children were
heard, seen and named.

and then what happened?

Boys were started to be given more unofficial helping tasks. They were
supported to take more initiative and to wait for their own turn, as well as girls.
Girls were started to be given more targeted attention: their self-esteem was
strengthened by praise and by activating into action.
In play situations gender roles were paid attention to in a different way, and it
led to enrichment and diversification of traditional roles.
Plays and groups of players became more diverse, when the order of toys and
playing spaces were changed.
The early educators involved in the project characterized the project as mindbroadening. They developed new and creative solutions for controlling noise
and often chaotic hall situations.