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Growing Up Global: The Changing Transitions to Adulthood in Developing Countries
In recent years, however, many schools have introduced new nonacademic elements to the curriculum, such as family life education or life skills, sports, and citizenship training, all of which have the potential to introduce more “modern” attitudes and behaviors. The impact of these new materials on the socialization of the young is very dependent on teacher training and motivation. Family life or life skills education taught by a teacher with no special training and traditional values can be used to purvey those values and in the process reinforce traditional behaviors. The impact of these new elements of the curriculum on the attitudes and behavior of young people have rarely been rigorously evaluated (see further discussion in Chapters 4 and 6).
Gender role socialization is a particularly important part of the hidden curriculum because it so fundamentally contributes to the very different experiences of boys and girls in their transitions to adulthood. Administrative practices, the curriculum (including the content and treatment of teaching materials), principals’ and teachers’ attitudes, peer subcultures, and school and classroom dynamics all contribute to the hidden curriculum on gender. For example, a common practice in many school systems is to expel girls from school when they become pregnant. Boys who make girls pregnant typically do not suffer a similar fate. Such practices convey powerful messages to boys and girls about the value associated with their schooling and the roles they are expected to play in the future.
Messages conveyed through school policies and administrative practices are heavily reinforced by centrally designed teaching materials that present cultural notions of appropriate gender roles (see Box 3-2). Independent reviews of the content of textbooks in many different parts of the developing world have found images of women appearing less frequently and, when images were depicted, women were usually shown in supporting roles and with negative character traits (Bustillo, 1993; El-Sanabary, 1993; Ibrahim and Wassef, 2000; Lloyd and Mensch, 1999; Obura, 1991; Shaheed and Mumtaz, 1993; Stromquist, 1994). Furthermore, in some parts of the world, certain aspects of the curriculum may be different for boys and girls (e.g., life skills, home science, family life, education, sports).
Probably the most important aspect of the hidden curriculum is conveyed in teachers’ attitudes and behaviors. There are reports from qualitative studies in schools in different parts of sub-Saharan Africa (Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, and Togo) that both male and female teachers display negative attitudes toward girls in both their verbal comments and their behavior. Girls are viewed as lazy, less competent, and less serious about their studies (Anderson-Levitt, Bloch, and Soumare, 1998; Biraimah, 1980; Davidson and Kanyuka, 1992; Hyde, 1997; Lloyd and Mensch, 1999). Appleton (1995) asked teachers in Kenya why they thought girls did less well than boys in exams. Their response was that girls’ poor exam results