The world’s largest lesson on gender equality

This blog was originally posted on the IBO website.


Students at Global Jaya School in Indonesia took part in an initiative to share what gender parity looks like ‘from where they stand’.

To challenge the stereotypical representations of women in certain industries, students at Global Jaya School in South Tangerang, Indonesia, decided to highlight the lack of females in media roles and the military for this year’s World’s Largest Lesson.

They discussed the low number of female filmmakers in the US, why males dominate so many senior creative roles in advertising, and whether women soldiers should leave their family to serve their country.

This year’s World’s Largest lesson took place between 18 and 24 September, and focused on the UN’s fifth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): Gender equality. Schools around the world took part in a cross-curricular survey project, which involved creating a gender equality ratio of community decision makers and influencers in their country and sharing this on an interactive #FromWhereIStand map. This provided a snapshot of what gender equality really looks like to young people in different countries.

Maggie Miranda teaches three classes – IB Diploma Programme (DP) film, DP English language and literature and DP English language acquisition – and felt addressing gender parity is of equal importance to all students. The lessons offered an ideal opportunity to encourage international mindedness, teach students the importance of the SDGs and raise awareness of gender inequality issues. All three groups completed an online survey to provide a snapshot of gender equality in Indonesia.

We were disappointed to find that in most areas women were not represented in leadership positions in Indonesia,” says Miranda. “Students acknowledged that there was some way to go before there is gender equality here.

DP film students discussed female filmmakers and quickly realised that Indonesia does not have any accomplished female filmmakers. “After some discussion, other female filmmakers from around the world were identified. Students felt that women were under-represented in their country and that this should change,” says Miranda.

For example, in the US, women directed 17 per cent of TV programme episodes this year, according to a study from the Directors Guild of America (DGA).

English language acquisition students watched a short film clip where the central male character is a top advertising executive. This led to discussions around why men dominate most senior creative roles in the advertising industry. Students discovered that women make up more than half of junior agency roles in the industry, but this decreases to under a third (30 per cent) when it comes to leadership positions, according to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).

DP English literature and language students, meanwhile, discussed if female soldiers should leave their families to serve on the front line. The students overwhelmingly felt being a woman shouldn’t make a difference and linked their thoughts back to poems by Wilfred Owen, whom they had studied previously. Students also had follow-up conversations among themselves about what the World War I poet would have thought about female soldiers and modern warfare.

Studying women in working different sectors encouraged students to challenge their beliefs, as well as those of society. “Referring to different ‘types’ of women challenged students’ and society’s stereotypical representations of them,” says Miranda. “All the types of women were also positive role models to students.”

First, students were excited at the concept that they were taking part in something that was happening all around the world. That wouldn’t usually happen as part of any national curriculum. Second, the activities that profiled women working in the military and media in countries outside of Indonesia, afforded students exposure – they could see that internationally, women are taking their place in senior professional roles.

Students discussed and debated the various issues and some of their views had changed by the end of the lesson, says Miranda. “Students will be able to apply their newfound knowledge to real-life situations and refer to this in various components of final assessments in DP film and English,” she adds.

There are lesson plans for all 17 SDGs. To find helpful resources, visit: http://worldslargestlesson.globalgoals.org/

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