Education-line Home Page

Gender sensitive pedagogy - an analysis of discourses of gender-related work in the Swedish preschool

Ingrid Karlson and Maria Simonsson

Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Geneva, 13-15 September 2006

Correspondence:

Ingrid Karlson
Dept. of Behavioural Sciences
University of Linkoping
SE 581 83 Linkoping
ingka@ibv.liu.se
+46 13282161

Maria Simonsson
Dept. of Science and Welfare
University of Linkoping
SE 581 83 Linkoping
masim@isv.liu.se
+46 11363062

Abstract

In this paper we are interested in finding some discourses that circulate on the levels of ideology and inspiration in Swedish preschools concerning "gender-sensitive pedagogy" There are a number of books and reports that circulate in the gender-and-equality projects in preschools besides the Curriculum and authority texts. The method is analysis of discourses inspired by Michel Foucault. Three different discourses were found: the discourse of the preschool institution, the gender/equity discourse, the gender- pedagogical discourse. From this study new questions could be raised concerning "gender-sensitive pedagogy" as we found tensions and dissimilarities between the gender related messages in the three discourses.

During the last years the interest to develop a gender-sensitive pedagogy in preschool has grown in Sweden. Inspiration has partly come from some preschools in the city of Gavle where the staff started to examine and develop their work from a gender point of view some years ago. Research concerning gender and education has also been a source of inspiration to us. The Ministry of Education nominated a "delegation for equality in preschool" to investigate the question of equality in preschool some years ago. The Ministry of Education has, through the above-mentioned delegation, financially supported preschool projects that intended to work with gender and equality. The delegation has now produced two reports on equality and gender aspects in preschool to discuss, develop and give some guidelines for a gender-sensitive pedagogy in Swedish preschools.

The preschool in Sweden

Swedish Education for the youngest children, i.e., 1-5 year olds, is organized in preschools, family day-care homes and open preschools. Today, almost 85 % of all 1-5 year old children and 96% of all 4-5 year old children in Sweden attend preschool and it is, thus, an important part of their childhood (Skolverket, 2005).

In 1998, the first National Curriculum aimed specifically at the preschool was introduced in Sweden (Ministry of Education, 1998). The Swedish Parliament and the government set the curriculum, defining the national goals and guiding principles for preschool activities. Within this framework, each municipality decides how to carry out the work in the preschool. "Democracy" and "the individual" are keywords in the curriculum. One of the basic assumptions in the curriculum is that the preschool should lay the foundation for lifelong learning. The preschool should be enjoyable, secure, and rich in learning opportunities for all children. It should also provide the children with high quality pedagogical activities, where care, nurture and learning form a coherent whole.

The Delegation for Gender Equality in Preschool was commissioned to highlight and develop gender equality activities in both private and municipality organised preschools. One point of departure for the delegation was the idea that lifelong learning should have a gender perspective, in order to capture traditional sex roles and patterns.

Our research project

We regard this study as an initial explorative part of a larger research-project concerning gender-sensitive pedagogy in preschools. Our main interest in this paper is to find some of the messages that reach preschools concerning gender and integration of a gender perspective in the daily activities of preschool. This is done by examining texts that we have good reason to believe that preschools meet in their efforts to develop a gender perspective. This way we expect to find some discourses of gender and equality which circulate in preschools and which may be of importance in the discussions and activities concerning integration of gender and equality perspectives in Swedish preschools.

In the next phase of the project we will investigate how preschool teachers understand "gender sensitive pedagogy". What do they think gender sensitive pedagogy is and what problems do they think it will solve? And what are their intentions as regards working in a gender-sensitive way? In the long run we would like to do ethnography in preschool to examine formations and positions of gender among children and the interaction between them, as well as the gender sensitive pedagogy that pedagogues perform in institutions where gender-sensitive pedagogy has been carried out for quite some time.

Points of departure

Karlson (2005) argues that educational settings are locations where contradictory gender messages reach the children. Mac an Ghaill (1994) points out that schools are part of the society and the ideologies in the society will appear in school contexts as well as in other contexts. Our analysis of some texts is one part in trying to grasp some of these messages that reach preschool. The Swedish National Curriculum includes some writings about gender and equality that may interact with the signals from other texts. The preschools in the city of Gavle, for instance, documented their experiences in this area in two books and some articles.

Our project as a whole departs from feminist theory; both stand-point theory and post-structural feminist theory are used as theoretical frame-work. Haywood and Mac an Ghaill (2006) stress that both materialist and deconstructive grounds are useful when trying to grasp different aspects of gender and identity. We lean on work by Walkerdine (1990), Davies (1995), Thorne, 1993, Mac an Ghaill (1994) and Conell (1995). From the Swedish context we use works by Berge (1998), Öhrn (2002), Odelfors (1996) and Karlson (2003).

The Aim

In this paper we are interested in finding what discourses that are circulating on the levels of ideology and inspiration. There are a number of books and reports that circulate in the gender- and-equality projects and the authors are often asked to lecture with a purpose to educate pedagogues in schools and preschools in Sweden. What discourses of gender and gender perspectives in preschool work can be found? What gender-related messages can possibly reach preschools from the books and the articles?

We are interested in four aspects of gender related to introducing gender-perspectives in preschool. Number one is what kind of gender-related theoretical points of departure we can find in the texts. Number two concerns what experiences from the work in preschools that are presented in the texts. The third aspect concerns what the preschools, according to the texts, should work with and how they are supposed to do it. The fourth one is what is missing in the discourses from a gender point of view. In other words, our research questions are as follows:

  1. What kind of theories of gender can we trace in the texts? What concepts are used? What ideas are brought forth as regards how to become a girl or a boy?

  2. What kind of experience and documentation from the preschool groups appear in the texts?

  3. What kind of issues and steps are regarded as important in working with gender and equality in preschool according to the texts?

  4. What kind of gender-related problems or issues are not visible in these texts?

Strategy for the analysis

The intended project as a whole has different methodological approaches. In order to find answers to our research questions, we will perform a kind of discourse analysis. Questions are asked to the texts in order to find repetitive sentences and what might be taken for granted related to our interests. We are also interested in what is absent from these texts, what is left out of the discourses (Foucault, 2003). Furthermore, we have focused on some themes that we found interesting in relation to the different discourses. These themes varied or were the same in the different discourses.

Selection of texts

The texts we have chosen are mainly directed to preschool contexts. There are two kinds of texts, the Curriculum and similar texts, i.e., texts that are produced by the authorities and intended to direct the work in preschool, and texts that are produced in the projects in Gavle. These texts are taken from books, which are not research reports; they might be regarded as popular science and handbooks. Their intentions are to inspire preschool teams to start working in a gender sensitive way.

The texts from the authorities are "Curriculum for the preschool" (Läroplan för förskolan Lpfö 98, Ministry of Education, 1998) and "Quality in preschool". General guide-lines and comments (Kvalitet i förskolan: Allmänna råd och kommentarer), (Skolverket, 2005). These texts are quite short and they contain very little about "how to do it".

The texts on gender sensitive pedagogy for preschools and, for that matter, other schools, are "Gender-sensitive pedagogy" (Genuspedagogik) by Kajsa Svaleryd (2003) and "Girls boys and pedagogues" (Flickor pojkar och pedagoger) by Kajsa Wahlström (2003). An article is also called "Gender sensitive pedagogy" (Genuspedagogik) and is written by Kajsa Svaleryd for the book "Focus on masculinity" (Manlighet i focus), edited by Marie Nordberg (2005). The authors have both been preschool teachers and have actually worked with the Gavle project. Wahlström was the head of preschools in Gavle, and Svaleryd worked as a pedagogue in one of them.

Our position

We perform this study from positions as senior lecturers, Ingrid Karlson of education and Maria Simonsson of preschool didactics. We are both former preschool-teachers and have an interest in projects intended to develop preschool in different ways. When it comes to research, Karlson works in the field of gender and education and Simonsson in the field of early childhood education.

Findings

The three discourses we have found are "the preschool discourse", "the gender/equality discourse" and the "gender-pedagogical discourse".

The texts from the Gavle project are different as regards focus. Wahlström’s (2003) book is a description of and a narrative from the Gavle Project. Her points of departure, as well as the project’s, are experiences from daily work in preschool and an interest in equality questions. Equality, not gender, is the main concept that can be used to describe the nature of the project and the pedagogy. Svaleryd (2003) also describes the Gavle project but she writes about gender sensitive pedagogy in a more general way. She calls her book a reflection-and-action book. She also connects the above mentioned project with some gender theory and discusses the concept "gender" in her book.

The discourse of the preschool institution

Early childhood educators in the Swedish preschool have to put in practice, the National Curriculum and the teachers have a complex and diverse role in managing gender questions in preschool everyday life. Thus, they have to work with gender issues in this educational context as the Curriculum states, and also take care of powerful discourses that inform children about femininity and masculinity outside the preschool. Therefore, in the first place, we have to scrutinize the Curriculum text, in order to understand what kind of requirements and goals the teachers have to achieve.

Liberty versus government

The National Curriculum of 1998 consists of tree parts; the first part emphasizes the basic values of the Swedish preschool, the second part describes its tasks, while the last one contains goals and guidelines. In this way, for the first time all preschoolers in Sweden were to meet the same institutional contents. The Curriculum is compulsory to follow for every individual pedagogue as well as for the municipality, but the goals are to strive for.

In the Curriculum texts (1998) there are very few passages about gender issues. Let us now take a closer look at them.

The ways in which adults respond to the boys and girls, as well as the demands and requirements imposed on children contribute to their appreciation of gender differences. The preschool should work to counteract traditional gender patterns and gender roles. Girls and boys in the preschool should have the same opportunities to develop and explore their abilities and interest without having limitations imposed by stereotyped gender roles. (p. 4)

When expressed in this way in the Curriculum we can deduce an ambition to give the professional staff the mandate for themselves to decide how to realise these goals. There are governmental guidelines, but there are no rules or detailed descriptions or discussions of how to deal with them in practice. Thus, we can see this passage as a rhetorical statement that tells the local teacher to deal with gender issues in the situated cases. The message is that the preschool should strive to break down gender boundaries who limit the children’s choices.

Walberg Roth (2002) has, from an historical point of view, studied the Curriculum text and other older governing texts for the preschool and she points out that the latter give expression of the neutral and universal child of homogeneous gender. However, there are changes in the understanding of gender from the relative unproblematic and clear-cut comprehension to a more complex and multifaceted one, and she shows in her analyses that there is a pluralistic gender code formulated in the 1998 Curriculum, which is a new way to talk about gender. There is also an idea about situated gender, that is, what it means to be a girl or a boy depends on meaning making processes. We can observe a displacement of perspective towards seeing the importance of every child’s competences. As Scott (1988) points out, "We need a theory that will let us think in terms of pluralities and diversities, rather than of unities and universals." (p 33)

In 2004 a national evaluation of the Swedish preschool took place, with the aim of highlighting the preschool’s development after the reform. The results demonstrated a lack of work with gender issues and also highlighted the requirement of increased theoretical knowledge. This work had led to a new document being published in 2005, entitled "Quality in preschool. General guidelines and comments" (Kvalitet i förskolan. Allmänna råd och kommentarer). It is a text that gives advices to the preschool staff of how to reach the national goals. It is interesting that this document, even if there is a great deal of freedom in how to follow the Curriculum, gives some, more concrete, suggestions for how to realize and carry out equality work.

The discourse of gender/equality

This discourse contains the perspectives of gender we have found in the texts and the ideas of becoming your sex/gender. First of all, there is a short description of the gender/equality project in Gavle in order to give the reader a picture of the project.

The Gavle Project

The Gavle project used equality aspects as the point of departure. The idea was to develop equality pedagogy because the children adopted such stereotype sex-roles and thereby lost possibilities to act in a lot of different ways. They ran the risk of missing many competencies, as they tried very hard to be girls and boys in accordance with gender-related norms.

To find a suitable pedagogy the pedagogues started to observe their every-day practices. They found that they were active in maintaining traditional stereotype "girls" and "boys" and reproducing power-relations between the sexes. After a lot of trial and error they found a pedagogy that they saw as suitable for their aims. It was built on observation, analysis, practice, and evaluation. Structure, practising skills in competencies that the other sex controlled better in sex-segregated groups, working with group relations and the "climate" in the preschool, were important issues in the Gavle pedagogy. "Positive reinforcement" instead of scolding was another important tool.

Girls and boys are brought up differently and are thus different

One often discussed issue as regards gender is how you become your gender or sex, whether it has to do with biology or by social impact. In the books and the article we have analysed it is taken for granted that gender is a social construction. The notion of girls and boys being different is likewise taken for granted. Boys and girls are or act differently because of their upbringing and expectations from mates, parents, teachers and others. Boys and girls are mostly regarded as groups, quite unitary groups. Boys and girls that do their gender in less stereotype ways are just mentioned and not much is said about them. The descriptions of girls and boys are quite stereotype and very dichotomised. There are a lot of examples from every-day situations to demonstrate this.

Why equality/gender sensitive pedagogy and what are the aims?

The hart of the matter is that girls and boys are brought up differently and learn different things. As a consequence they get some competencies and miss others. Gender or sex limits the lives and possibilities of human beings. Another thing is that boys and girls and their behaviour, their competencies, and so on, are valued differently. There is a hierarchy between men and women, which is not fair. Wahlström (2003) expresses this as boys being brought up to be given "leading roles", and girls are brought up to be given "subordinate roles", and they often can be found in different places. These are classical feminist standpoints and points of departure for ideas of equality. They are also ingredients of gender theory. A decision by the staff in Gavle was to develop a pedagogy that would contribute to widening their own and the children’s images of what is possible for them as girls and boys and try to change their values concerning traditionally feminine and masculine activities and choices.

The aims of the pedagogy and the project was as Svaleryd (2003) describes it:

I want to prove that you simultaneously can work deliberately with strengthening and acknowledging the children’s identity as girls and boys and give them possibilities to cross traditional gender patterns (Svaleryd, 2003 p 10).

The aim is not to cross any boundaries, boys should be boys and girls should be girls. But the strong limits as to what is seen as possible for girls and boys should be widened because both boys and girls would benefit from access to a wider range of competencies.

What, then, are the main statements in the texts about the gender project and "gender sensitive pedagogy" then, that we as researchers find as creating a discourse of gender/equality that may circulate and actually have an impact on Swedish preschools that are interested in developing a gender sensitive pedagogy?

  • Gender limits the lives and experiences of human beings. Equality is still far away. This is unfair and preschool should really work towards change.

  • Dimensions of inequality or unfair gender relations are hierarchy and dichotomy

  • Girls and boys are different or act differently because of their upbringing. Gender is socially constructed. Girls and boys are quite unitary groups and both girls and boys mostly take stereotype traditional gender roles.

  • The situation in preschool is possible to change. Real change requires a holistic approach.

  • Not exactly absent, but on the edges of the discourse, are some of the issues that have been discussed in research and also in popular science for some time, such as, the situated character of gender positions (Thorne, 1993, Evaldsson, 2000; Karlson, 2003), the idea of highlighting the variation in the children’s performance of gender (Thorne, 1993; Karlson, 2003), the change by some girls, middle-class girls in particular (Öhrn, 2002), and the connection between gender and other categories like class, ethnicity and sexuality (Öhrn, 2002). It is important to mention that we can detect changes over time in the discourse from using the concept of equality to the concept of gender, from theory-free to connections with gender theory. The project in Gavle starts as an equality project with the aim to develop an "equality sensitive pedagogy". The pedagogy is later on called "gender sensitive pedagogy" in the book written by Svaleryd (2003).

    Individual - Collective

    Another interesting issue in our analysis is the focus on the group, the collective of boys and of girls. Boys and girls are seen as two quite different unitary groups. The aim is, as mentioned earlier, to strengthen their identity as girls or boys and at the same time widen their gender related positions (Svaleryd, 2003). The aim in the long run is to increase possibilities to make individual choices without constraints from gender. In research, for quite some time, a discussion has been going on about the problems in seeing girls and boys as unitary groups (Thorne, 1993; Conell, 1995; Nordberg, 2006). Thorne (2003) points out the importance of seeing girls and boys as different in their own sex-group and to observe when children do gender in mixed ways, when gender overlaps one another. These children who do gender differently could be seen as good examples but in the texts we analyse in this paper such variation is marginalised if not absent.

    Gender-pedagogical discourse

    We can also identify a third discourse in our material, and that is the gender pedagogical discourse, which refers to how teachers have to deal with both gender and the institutional discourse while working with the children in the classroom.

    What kind of themes can we sort out in these texts? If we start with the Curriculum, there is a taken-for-granted understanding that the teacher’s duty is to realise the gender issues. Also in the text "Quality in preschool, 2005" (Kvalitet i förskolan) it is pointed out that the preschool staff and leaders have a key role in developing gender equality activity. In order to work with the norms and values in accordance with the purposes of the Curriculum, it is necessary to have gender theoretical knowledge and practical experience of such work with children.

    In the analysed texts, the teachers are presented with the idea that they have an important and powerful role in these processes, and it is implicitly understood that they know how to do it in practice. At the same time, in the handbooks (Svaleryd, 2003; Wahlström, 2003) the authors give us a different picture. Here the teachers’ lack of knowledge in this field appears. The ordinary teachers have to be aware of gender, and have to address gender issues in their groups. Pedagogical observations (Lenz Taguchi, 1997) could be a suitable tool for making such questions visible. However, the teachers have to improve both their theoretical gender knowledge, and their ability to solve pedagogical situations. Thus, the handbook texts stress the teachers’ role as experts in the field.

    The pedagogues need gender theoretical knowledge in order to deconstruct the children’s everyday life. In that way they are able to produce new knowledge and handle classroom situations.

    Power is not something that is acquired, seized or shared, something that one holds on to or allows to slip away; power is exercised from innumerable points, in the interplay of non egalitarian and mobile relations. (Foucault, 1978, p 94)

    Foucault emphasises the relation between knowledge and power. With regard to the gender-pedagogical discourse, the pedagogues with more knowledge should be able to produce and occupy more powerful subject positions.

    Professionals develop "gender sensitive pedagogy"

    The writings in the Gavle books could be seen as messages from one pedagogue to another. "Look at us, we knew nothing when we started but now we have a lot of experience and knowledge. You can do this to." Wahlström (2003) describes the feeling at the start of the project:

    To find good ideas we read the books by Jorun Guldbransen "Is the school meant for Karin or Erik?" and Susanne Rithander "Assistant teachers and rebels". Of course that was inspiring but anyway, we were standing there with our two empty hands and we were wondering what we could actually do to make a change. (Wahlström, 2003 p 39)

    The expertise the Gavle group developed was an over-all approach. The process of change meant that everything in the preschool was scrutinised from an equality point of view. Analysis of observations and documentation was the point of departure. The next step was to arrange the rooms, the toys, the routine situations in a way that the pedagogues thought would lead to equality in the future.

    The pedagogues themselves were seen as immensely powerful tools. The pedagogues were entirely responsible for the situation in the child-groups, together with the head of the preschool.

    Most important in the process of equality was our own freedom. We were free to create the process, formulate questions and practise together. I had to reflect on my leadership. The word process received a strong meaning during the work. (Wahlström, 2003 p 40)

    The children’s behaviour was seen as a reaction to the pedagogues’ own actions and activities. Their voices, their talk, their gestures and play of features and attention could thus be used as tools for change. They observed how differently they talked to girls and boys, their voices were different, the topics were different and their faces and bodies showed what and who was important in every situation. Their attention was also different. One way to work for change, they thought, was to act and talk differently. To deliberately vary their ways of talking and acting so both girls and boys would meet a lot of topics, expressions, attitudes and above all actions and reactions they seldom met in every day life (Svaleryd, 2003; Wahlström, 2003).

    Knowledge and consciousness of gender and its impact on human beings both on a structural level and on the level of individuals are seen as crucial for the teams working in preschool. Each pedagogue also should:

    ….find the will to change and to see his or her role in a new perspective. (Svaleryd, 2003 p 42)

    The ideal team has this will and knowledge and they have a shared understanding and an agreement as to what terminology to use. They also agreement on the pedagogy, "we do like this in specific situations", and they are able to put their own personal opinions aside.

    Compensatory pedagogy through sex-segregated groups is a tool to give the children opportunities to learn new competencies in a safe group. In the Gavle preschool the children were parted in single-sex groups during meal-times, when dressing and undressing before and after out-door activities, during picnics and when practising new skills. The days were very structured, and the children, thus, met in an activity that had replaced "free play", which is a very common activity in Sweden (where the children can choose what they want to do). The reason for this replacement was that the children did not really have a free choice anyway, their choices were usually gendered (Svaleryd, 2003; Wahlström, 2003).

    Structure, active governing, "positive reinforcement" and compensatory steps were used with the purpose to change the children’s behaviour and break the gendered pattern in the preschool.

    In the text it is pointed out that not every child does their gender in accordance with stereotype gender-related patterns. Some children do not fit into these descriptions. There are very few examples, however, concerning children who are not limited by gender norms, and we found that this part of the "message" disappears in relation to the main standpoints.

    Because the pedagogues are seen as extremely important, the children’s own experiences and their culture and impact on each other, in child-to-child interactions, also disappear in the texts. Through their pedagogy the pedagogues seem to think that you can diminish the impact from the children’s experience and culture.

    These points sum up the gender-pedagogical discourse:

  • United preschool teams and the individual pedagogues are seen as powerful tools. They can observe the children and decide what the problems are. They could work for change by acting as good examples for the children as well as being directors and governors of time, space, activities, etc, in the preschool.

  • Structure, governing, united teams, good examples, doing and talking differently, positive reinforcement, holistic approaches, and single-sex groups for practising skills are tools chosen for the intended change.

  • Every preschool and school has to find its own ways to become an institution were all boys and girls are equal. The point of departure should be an analysis of observations an documentation of the work in preschool.

  • Liberty and governing

    To try to change the possibilities for the children to adapt wider gender positions, structure, governing and adult presence are seen as important tools. The aims and intentions are to give more freedom, freedom from the constraints and boundaries that gender norms in the society create. Freedom and free choices are important ingredients in our democratic society. Both in schools and in preschool it is taken for granted that the children should have a free choice of mates and activities during recess-time in school and during out-door time and "free play" in the preschool. Thorne (1993) points out that free choice is hardly free. For example, gender and the "gender regime" in schools often direct choice towards stereotype gender behaviour. To actually govern these situations, too, might be o tool for gender-related change and that is one issue in the Swedish "gender sensitive pedagogy". An extremely structured preschool is probably some-thing that could be in opposition to the discourse of democracy, education for democracy and citizenship, and, for that matter, the tradition in preschool.

    Leadership carried out by the pedagogues through structure, positive reinforcement, and arranging the space, is comprehensive in the project in Gavle and embraces, as mentioned above, many, many aspects of preschool life. The holistic approach, the focus on observation, documentation, the ordering of time, space, activities, and even the bodily expressions and the rhetoric of the pedagogues, remind us of the creation of the modern industrial worker and the individual as described by Foucault (Focault, 1978). This pedagogy aims at creating individuals who are "free" to make choices according to their own wishes without gender limitations. The pedagogues should want to be loyal to the aims and methods in the gender /equality pedagogy and contribute to the creation of a gender-free individual.

    This is not entirely a hidden agenda, though the pedagogues and the parents, and maybe the children, too, know what is going on and what the aims are. Broady (1981) speaks of a "hidden agenda" in the educational system, an agenda that implicitly transfers different power relations, as for example gender, to the pupils and thus reproduces these relations inadvertently. Maybe the strong governing of the Gavle preschool could be seen as an attempt to fight the "hidden agenda" as regards reproducing traditional gender patterns. An important follow-up question, then, would be what this new agenda would produce or reproduce.

    Conclusions

    From the readings of the selected texts we could deduct three discourses that might circulate in preschools in Sweden.

  • The discourse of preschool
  • The discourse of gender and equality
  • Gender-pedagogical discourse
  • The first discourse comes mainly from the authority texts and expresses a pluralistic view of gender and an idea of gender as a moral values question. Unfair gender relations are an issue for preschool pedagogues to handle. It is taken for granted that the preschool teachers have the knowledge and tools that are necessary in preschool activities. Democratic values and individualisation are parts of the message from this discourse.

    The second discourse emanates from the texts of the Gavle project and contains the hierarchical and dichotomised character of gender relations and the idea of gender as socially constructed. There is also a belief that boys and girls are or act differently on group level. Boys and girls are handled collectively in quite unitary groups. The preschools should be agents for change when it comes to equality and gender issues, but for this to happen, pedagogues need more knowledge and new tools.

    The gender-pedagogical discourse expresses a strong need for expertise. The pedagogues turn to texts from pedagogical practice. These texts stress the importance of the professional pedagogues’ ability to develop their own tools and pedagogical actions. We have found that strong governing, structure and adults as good examples together with a holistic view are parts of this discourse.

    Discussion

    From this explorative study of some texts, we have found three discourses of gender and equality addressing preschools. When carrying out this work we have also found interesting questions that need further investigation.

    If you relate this pedagogy to gender theory what kind of equality/gender standpoints can be found, on what epistemological ground is the pedagogy resting? The tension between different ideas of equality/gender might turn out to show several points of departure. Could there be other gender sensitive pedagogies? Yelland (1998) discusses that there could be a difference between pedagogies that emanate from equality and standpoint theory on one hand, and pedagogies that have a post-structural point of departure on the other.

    The need for expertise and the strong belief in the pedagogue’s competence is another interesting question. How can pedagogues think about and handle this contradiction?

    The contradictory ideas in the different discourses of freedom - governing and individual -collective we found very interesting, and questions could be raised about how they are understood and handled by the pedagogues.

    The educational system and its relation to the society is not much discussed in the texts. The impact from media, parents and other actors are mentioned. But, as the pedagogues in the project have such a great belief in their competence and also are given a very important role by the authorities, you may wonder how the impact from the world around is regarded.

    Last, but most important, is the question about the child and the position of the child in this work of change. The competent child, nowadays often mentioned in research and in discussions concerning preschool, seems to be less competent in relation to "doing gender" in new ways. But maybe they would not be less competent in learning how to be individuals less limited by gender?

    The messages then? We think that all these texts have an impact on preschool teams who want to work in a gender sensitive way. The Curriculum legitimates and promotes the work with gender aspects. To be able to carry this work through, the preschools both look for expertise and develop expertise. All the discourses have more or less the same goals, but there are also contradictions. The texts/messages from the Gavle project we found very persuasive because of the examples from everyday life.

    We have noticed in recent texts about the preschool discourse in Sweden that there is a tendency to point at the importance of incorporating a gender perspective in preschool. The last report from the delegation of the Ministry of Education (2006) emphasises the need of expertise. Apart from the expertise the pedagogues develop themselves, the commission states that it is necessary to educate some specialists in gender sensitive pedagogy to promote every-day work with equality and gender aspects in education for young children.

    References

    Davies, B. & Banks, C. (1995). "The gender trap" in ed: Holland J & Blair M, Debates and Issues in Feminist Research and Pedagogy: a Reader. The Open University

    Berge, B-M. (1998). Skall vi skolas tillsammans eller var för sig? I: Arnesen, A-L. (red) Likt og ulikt: Kjönnsdimensjonen i pedagogisk tenkning och praksis. Høgskolen i Oslo: HiO-rapport 1998 nr 2.

    Broady, D. (1981) Den dolda läroplanen. Stockholm: Symposium

    Conell, R. W. (1995). Maskuliniteter. Stockholm: Daidalos.

    Dahlberg, G. & Lenz Taguchi, H. (1994). Förskola och skola. Stockholm: HLS Förlag.

    Davies, B. & Banks, C. (1995). The gender trap. In: Holland, J. & Blair, M. (eds.) Debates and Issues in Feminist Research and Pedagogy: a Reader. London: The Open University.

    Evaldsson, A-C. (2000). Könskillnader och regellekar. Nordisk Pedagogik, nr 2, sid 65–79.

    Foucault, M. (1978). The history of Sexuality Volume One. London: Peguin.

    Foucault, M. (1987). Övervakning och straff. Lund: Arkiv förlag.

    Foucault, M. (1993). Diskursens ordning. Stockholm: Symposion.

    Gordon, T. & Lahelma, E. (1998). Gränsöverskridande – om kön i läroplaner och i skolans praxis. I: Arnesen, A-L. (red) Likt og ulikt: Kjönnsdimensjonen i pedagogisk tenkning och praksis. Høgskolen i Oslo: HiO-rapport 1998 nr 2.

    Jones, A. (1994). Flickor blir flickor i ett socialt spel av betydelser och sätt att vara. Kvinnovetenskaplig tidskrift nr 4 sid 30-39

    Karlson, I. (2003). Könsgestaltningar i skolan. Om könsrelaterat gränsupprätthållande, gränsuppluckrande och gränsöverskridande. Linköping Studies in Education and Psychology No 91 Linköpings University, Department of Behavioural Sciences.

    Karlson, I. (2005). Contradictory gender messages in school. Paper presented at NFPF. Oslo 2005.

    Kvalitet i förskolan. Allmänna råd och kommentarer. Skolverkets Allmänna Råd. 2005 Stockholm: Fritzes.

    Lenz Taguchi, H (1997). Varför pedagogisk dokumentation? : om barnsyn, kunskapssyn och ett förändrat förhållningssätt till förskolans arbete. Stockholm: HLS.

    Odelfors, B. (1996), Att göra sig hörd och sedd. Om villkoren för pojkars
    och flickors kommunikation på daghem.
    Doktorsavhandling. Stockholm: Pedagogiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet.

    Odelfors, B. (2000). Samspel i förskolan: Luncher, grupper och shower ur
    ett genusperspektiv
    . Paper presenterat vid Den andra genusvetenskapliga Stockholmskonferensen, Utopier och dystopier, 6–7 oktober 2000.

    Mac an Ghaill, M. (1994). The making of men. Buckingham & Philadelphia: Open University Press

    Reisby, K. (1998) Könssensitiv Pedagogik. I Arnessen, A-L (red) Ligt og ulikt: Kjönnsdimensionen i Pedagogisk tenking og praxis. Högskolen i Oslo: HiO-rapport 1998 nr 2

    Skolverket, (2005) General guide-lines and comments (Kvalitet i förskolan: Allmänna råd och kommentarer) Stockholm: Fritzes

    Svaleryd, K. (2003) Genuspedagogik. Liber: Stockholm

    SOU 2006:75 Delegationen för Jämställdhet i förskolan

    Thorne B. (1993) Gender Play. Buckingham: Open University Press

    Utbildningsdepartementet (1993). Läroplan för det obligatoriska skolväsendet, förskoleklassen och fritidshemmet (Lpo-94). Stockholm: Fritzes.

    Wallberg Roth, A-C. (2002) De yngre barnens läroplanshistoria. Lund: Studentlitteratur

    Weiner, G. & Berge, B-M. (2001). Kön och kunskap. Lund: Studentlitteratur.

    West, C. & Zimmerman, D. H. (1991). Doing gender. In: Lorber, J. & Farrell, S. A. (eds.) The social

    Walkerdine, V. (1990). Schoolgirl Fictions. London, New York: Verso

    Wahlström, K. (2003) Flickor.pojkar och pedagoger. Utbildningsradion

    Yates, L. (1995). Konstruktion och dekonstruktion av "flickor" som kategori i utbildning. Utbildning och demokrati, 1995, nr 3, sid 5–17.

    Yelland, N. (1998) Gender in early childhood. London: Routledge.

    Öhrn, E. (2002). Könsmönster i förändring? – en kunskapsöversikt om unga i skolan. Stockholm: Skolverket.

    Summary

    Education of Gender - an analysis of discourses of gender-related work in preschool

    The Aim

    In this paper we are interested in finding some discourses that circulate on the levels of ideology and inspiration in Swedish preschools concerning "gender-sensitive pedagogy" There are a number of books and reports that circulate in the gender-and-equality projects besides the Curriculum and similar texts. What discourses of gender and gender perspectives in preschool can be found in them? What gender-related messages can possibly reach preschools from the books and the articles?

  • What kind of theories of gender can we trace in the texts? What concepts are used? How do they look upon how to become a girl or a boy?
  • What kind of experience and documentation from the preschool groups appear in the texts?
  • What kind of issues and steps are regarded as important in working with gender and equality in preschool?
  • What kind of gender-related problems or issues are not visible in these texts?
  • Three discourses were found:

    The first discourse comes mainly from the authority texts and expresses a pluralistic view of gender and an idea of gender as a moral values question. Unfair gender relations are an issue for preschool pedagogues to handle. It is taken for granted that the preschool teachers have the knowledge and tools that are necessary in preschool activities. Democratic values and individualisation are parts of the message from this discourse.

    The second discourse emanates from the texts of the Gavle project and contains the hierarchical and dichotomised character of gender relations and the idea of gender as socially constructed. A belief that boys and girls are or act differently as groups is also appearing. The preschools should be agents for change when it comes to equality and gender issues. But for this to happen, pedagogues need more knowledge and new tools. Boys and girls are handled collectively in quite unitary groups.

    The gender-pedagogical discourse expresses a strong need for expertise. The pedagogues turn to texts from pedagogical practice. These texts stress the importance of the professional pedagogues’ ability to develop their own tools and pedagogical actions. We have found that strong governing, structure and adults as good examples, together with a holistic view are parts of this discourse.

    This document was added to the Education-Line database on 13 November 2006