Wednesday 26 September 2018

Irish pupils have problems with reading gender stereotypes

PIRLS showed how the reading skills of Irish 10-year-olds were the best in Europe
PIRLS showed how the reading skills of Irish 10-year-olds were the best in Europe
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Irish 10-year-olds may be the best readers in Europe, but many of them wrongly assume that a strong character in a story is male, even if an image or name is obviously female.

A problem of gender stereotyping among fourth-class pupils has emerged in research that probed further into the findings of the 50-country Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) last year.

PIRLS showed how the reading skills of Irish 10-year-olds were the best in Europe, and, only beaten by Singapore and the Russian Federation globally.

Now further work by the Educational Research Centre in Drumcondra has thrown up deeper insights. Lead author Dr Eemer Eivers said incorrect assumption of maleness by pupils emerged in a number of contexts.

One example she gave was an online newspaper article about Mars exploration, which included the author's byline, Maria Greene. In their answers, just 23pc of Irish pupils identified her as female.

Assigning maleness to the more heroic character also occurred frequently in the text 'Pemba Sherpa', despite the character's femaleness being a key part of the plot.

Dr Eivers said it was "depressing that young children still seem to fall back on gender stereotypes, such as assuming that a science writer is male, even when she is clearly flagged as a woman in the article".

"It seems there is more work to be done in identifying and addressing the unconscious gender biases that permeate everyday lives, including those of young children in school."

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News