In 2015 I wrote a piece on this blog (entitled “Gender roles in the classroom”) about a situation in lessons where I give a class of 15-16 year olds a choice of practical assignments. There is an architectural design assignment and a fashion design assignment. The two variations are well balanced I feel and require similar amounts of effort and creativity on the part of the pupils. I provide both possibilities with a good contextual build up and frame the challenges up for the pupils so that they have a very clear idea on what is on offer.
The post from 2015, seven years ago, referred to the fact that whilst a reasonable number on girls would choose the architecture assignment, there seemed to be an unbelievable reluctance amongst the boys to pick up the fashion challenge. In 2015, I was pleased to have a total of one boy from several teaching groups who did.
However, in the intervening years I seem to be observing a change going on. Year on year, the fashion designing boys in my groups has been starting to change. Statistically the numbers involved in my classes aren’t big enough for concrete conclusions to be drawn, but there really does seem to be a bit of a movement in a particular direction. This year I’ve reached the point where there are 50% of the boyswho have chosen the fashion route ahead of the architecture, something of a seismic shift in this limited creative sample.
It leads be to wonder if there is anything significant going on here. Is there a switch away from the idea that anything involving clothes is only for girls? Is there greater acceptance that role models and expectations of behaviours aligned purely to gender and choices have moved on?
I’d like to think, certainly within the school where I teach, that that second point is the case. It isn’t that we have an educational institution that is a utopia of acceptance and respect for all issues that in anyway touch on gender, education, behaviour and related areas. But it is certainly true to say that great steps have been taken in the last ten years or so. The entrenchment of a boy group and a girl group in each class is not what it once was I feel, maybe this reflects changes in society a broader level too? But whatever the reasons, I’m certainly happy to see that pupils feel a freedom to choose in this area at least the assignments that interest or suit them the most.