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Equal Opportunities through Technology Education

18 November 2009 Suomen Akatemia (Academy of Finland)

The latest international surveys of the level of learning among pupils in their early years of education show that girls are gaining increasingly good results in subjects traditionally considered as the domain of boys, such as mathematics and natural sciences.

Nevertheless, the trend is not reflected on the number of women working within the field of technology after basic education. It seems that the conventional division still exists and that men still find technology more attractive than women do. This is what the international UPDATE project, funded through the European Union’s FP6 programme, is set out to change.

- UPDATE stands for Understanding and Providing a Developmental Approach to Technology Education, and the project aspires to defeat the established gender barriers through discovering more efficient methods of technology education, explains Project Coordinator Päivi Fadjukoff from the University of Jyväskylä.

The theme of encouraging gender sensitive technology education is brought forward in the article “Technology Education for Children in Primary Schools in Finland and Germany: Different School Systems, Similar Problems and How to Overcome Them” written by a research team led by Dr. Aki Rasinen (University of Jyväskylä) and published in the International Journal of Technology and Design Education.

The article examines the gender roles produced as a result of the education systems in both Germany and Finland. They conclude that a major factor contributing to the insufficiency of technology education, not only for girls but on a wider scale as well, is teachers’ lack of confidence in providing high quality teaching in this area. According to the writers of the article, the solution for the problem could be making technology and science education a more integral part of the training of elementary school teachers.

The methods used in technology education could also assist in diminishing the division associated with gender roles. In their article “A Conceptual Framework for Developing the Curriculum and Delivery of Technology Education in Early Childhood“, also published in the International Journal of Technology and Design Education, a team of researchers led by Dr. Leena Turja (University of Jyväskylä) propose techniques of integrating technology education in the pedagogy of early childhood education.

The researchers found that by utilizing creativity and play in their teaching, teachers were able to raise the interests of both boys and girls toward technology. At the same time, they were discouraging the construction of gender stereotypes.

- As stated by the UPDATE project, improving the quality of technology education and providing it at a young age could further the realization of equality within education systems as well as whole societies, says Fadjukoff.

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