Sunday, September 20, 2009

Integrating gender into the classroom

“Along with specialized courses on gender-related issues, gender needs to be integrated into all the classroom discussions,” Dr. Aparna Rayaprol of the Department of Sociology in the University of Hyderabad has observed. Addressing a research lecture on ‘Has Feminist Research Changed Pedagogical Approaches in Social Science?’ at the New Seminar Hall in the School of Social Sciences on September 16, 2009, she observed specialized courses on gender and women's studies tended to ghettoize the issue. Even though this wasn't a bad thing, gender needs to be incorporated into regular classroom teaching and have a broader scope, she said.

Drawing from her experiences in teaching gender related courses, Dr.Rayaprol discussed the various engagements students had with gender in the classroom and how they had changed over the years. The lecture discussed the feminist standpoint theory as a sociological method of teaching where analysis happened from a position of opposition to the established discourses and social meanings. She pointed out that it was necessary to keep discussing gender without allowing it to get completely subsumed within the larger debates of caste and class.

Giving an example, she spoke about how when a seminar was being organized a few years ago on 'Women and Water Rights' people asked what women had to do with water rights. It never occurred to them she explained, that it was the women in rural areas who walked miles in the hot sun to fetch water because they had no supply in their homes which made it predominantly a women's issue.

Recalling the earlier decades, she lamented the fact that more vibrant gender debates on campus happened back then, while today’s young women whom she described as “a generation of complacence,” took their privileged position for granted without understanding what has happened or how they got here. She emphasized that it was necessary to “incorporate gender studies into mainstream social sciences where students and teachers can both become subjects.”

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