Experts lament sexism in Vietnam's textbooks

Thanh Nien News

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Textbook editors in Vietnam have pledged to remove gender stereotypes and promote equality after being criticized for using content that appeared to reinforce discrimination. 
Tran Thi Phuong Nhung, Gender Program Manager of UNESCO in Hanoi, said at a Thursday meeting that stereotypes are all over the textbooks used around the country, starting from first grade. 
A first-grade book about social activities, for instance, has pictures of boys running around and playing football while the girls are either sitting or cleaning.
Illustrations of families also show the father rest and read newspaper while the mother cook and clean.
“Those images establish gender stereotype, and will lead to inequality in the family and society,” Nhung said, as cited by news website Zing.
“Textbooks play a very important role in shaping children’s opinions. Those heavily biased images need to be replaced,” she said.
A UNESCO survey found more boys are attending primary and secondary schools in Vietnam than girls, especially in poor areas and those with large ethnic population, where girls have to stay home to help with housework or are pushed into early marriage.
Hoang Ba Thinh, a lecturer at Hanoi University of Social Sciences and Humanities, said textbooks in Vietnam are biased. 
Thinh said a study of 76 textbooks in six subjects from the first to 12th grades show that 69 percent of the characters are boys and men, and only 24 percent are girls and women.
The male characters work various jobs such as doctors, scientists, professors, engineers, painters and police officers while the women are usually described as housewives, he said.
Almost all examples of famous and important figures are male, according to the study.
Literary texts about women usually depict them in unlucky and miserable life decided by men and depending on men’s rescue, it found.
Thinh said many teachers are prejudiced against women and girls themselves, reinforcing gender-based discrimination right in the classroom. 
Ngo Kim Khoi from the ministry’s textbook editing board, said the books will "add more elements" to raise awareness about gender equality and eliminate stereotypes in the future.
“They will show a balance and highlight more of women’s contribution to the society,” he said.

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