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Changing Policy and Practices on Gender and Education in Portugal

Changing Policy and Practices on Gender and Education in Portugal

Promoting education on gender inequalities in Portuguese schools and universities

Education can play a crucial role in fighting stereotypes related to gender and sexuality, but the conditions are not always in place for schools and universities to do that work effectively. Drawing on her award-winning research on the informal manifestations of sexism and homophobia in secondary and higher education, Dr Maria do Mar Pereira worked with government, state agencies, NGOs, trade unions, schools and teachers to create better policy, practices and products for gender-sensitive education in Portugal.

The challenge

In the last decade, awareness of gender inequalities has grown in Portuguese society and the topic has become more integrated into formal education, as a result both of government-led changes to the national curriculum and local initiatives in schools and universities. As a result, overt manifestations of sexism and homo/transphobia in education have reduced.

However, through in-depth observation in schools and universities, Dr Maria do Mar Pereira demonstrated that sexism and homophobia have not disappeared – they still thrive within informal interactions, such as playground cultures and corridor talk. These informal manifestations of sexism and homophobia are less visible but have serious impacts.

To achieve gender-sensitive education it is crucial to engage directly with the informal dimensions of life in schools and universities, a topic which was not always explicitly tackled in existing policies, practices and products for gender education in Portugal.

Our approach

As a leading Portuguese expert on gender, Dr Maria do Mar Pereira was invited to act as a Special Advisor to the Government, working closely since 2016 with the Secretary of State for Citizenship & Equality, the Ministry of Education, and the National Commission for Citizenship & Gender Equality. This was accompanied by collaboration with non-governmental bodies, including teachers’ trade unions, students’ unions and NGOs promoting gender-sensitive education.

Our impact

Through consultations with the above partners, Dr Pereira identified three areas that required intervention: expanding national policy on gender-sensitive education; improving the practices of professionals delivering gender-sensitive education; and creating new products for gender-sensitive education.

  • In terms of policy, Dr Pereira provided input to the Secretary of State in the design of the new National Equality Strategy (2018–2030). Her research was also used by staff in the Ministry of Education and the Secretariat of State for Citizenship and Equality to inform the policy and curriculum for the subject of Citizenship Education, a new addition to the national curriculum.

  • In terms of practices, Dr Pereira created and delivered capacity-building training to staff in governmental agencies, trade unions, schools and universities. Her work was used in teacher training guidelines, manuals and courses produced by governmental and non-governmental bodies for use throughout the country, and it helped shape several initiatives in schools by NGOs and local authorities.

  • In terms of products, Dr Pereira is working with colleagues to create an innovative graphic novel on gender and sexuality aimed at 13 – 16 year olds, to be distributed to more than 3.000 students in schools all over the country. She has also featured as a protagonist in a feature-length documentary, a three-part TV series and an animated short film on gender inequalities in Portuguese society, commissioned by the Secretary of State and RTP, the national public broadcaster.

Through this work, Dr Maria do Mar Pereira's research has had a transformative impact, both nationally and locally, in the promotion of effective gender-sensitive education in Portugal.

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