Stereotypes Can Hold Girl Students Back In School, Too

Stereotypes Can Hold Girl Students Back In School, Too

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Stereotypes

It has long been understood that stereotypes pose a significant barrier to academic success, particularly for girls. Despite numerous attempts, these preconceptions still exist, and their negative effects on girls’ educational opportunities cannot be disregarded. Stereotypes can restrict girls’ academic interests and abilities, which can also have a negative impact on their confidence and drive.

This article will explore the various ways that stereotypes can hold back girl students in school.

Negative Impact of Stereotypes on girls

Research published in Sage Journals suggests that negative stereotypes can hinder cognitive performance in adults, while positive stereotypes can enhance cognitive performance. Studies were conducted on the impact of positive and negative stereotypes on the cognitive performance of children across three age groups: lower elementary school, upper elementary school, and middle school. The findings showed that younger girls in the lower elementary grades (kindergarten to grade 2) and older children in the middle school grades (grades 6 to 8) experienced changes in their performance due to the activation of positive and negative stereotypes

Stereotypes hold girls back by limiting their academic interests and abilities. According to the Journal of Psychology, girls are more likely to adopt misconceptions that they are less capable than boys in math and science.

Below, we have discussed how stereotypes are holding back girls in numerous ways:

  1. Restricting Academic Capabilities and Interests – As mentioned above, girls may internalize the notion that they aren’t as skilled as boys in disciplines like Math and Physics. Even if they are interested in them or have the potential to excel in them, this may force them to shun those subjects. Consequently, they might miss out on learning opportunities that could enable them to realize their full potential.
  2. Effect on Mental Health – According to a study published by Annual Reviews, girls who internalize negative stereotypes about their gender are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. While mental health conditions can make it more challenging to perform academically and realize one’s goals, this can have long-lasting impacts on their private and professional lives.
  3. Low Self-esteem – Girls may start to doubt their skills if they are subjected to stereotypes that suggest they are less intellectual or capable than boys regularly. This may result in diminished confidence and motivation, which may then lead to subpar academic performance. Moreover, the strain of having to adhere to gender norms can interfere with a girl’s ability to focus on herself.
  4. Limitations on Career Choices – Stereotypical biases in schools may affect the career choices and the availability of information provided about careers for girls. For certain jobs or professions, girls are told those jobs are not suitable for them, or they cannot excel in that particular profession. For example, in India, girls are often encouraged to pursue careers in medicine instead of engineering as that profession is considered to be exclusively meant for boys. 

Also Read: Why It’s Time to Chuck Stereotypes of Boys’ Emotions

Ways to reduce negative impacts of stereotypes in Schools

It is important to keep in mind that the negative impact of stereotypes on female students is not inevitable or unavoidable. To challenge stereotypes and support girls’ academic success, a variety of interventions can be used. Research published in PNAS  suggests that providing girls with positive role models who excel in math and science can help dispel gender stereotypes and increase girls’ interest in these fields. Also, according to research published in Springer, giving girls the opportunity to engage in practical STEM activities can help them develop their confidence and skills in these fields.

Let’s discuss some effective strategies to combat stereotypes in schools:

a. Promoting diversity among students – By recognizing and promoting many cultures, religions, and backgrounds, schools can actively promote diversity and inclusion. The inclusion of people from different backgrounds in discussions and activities in the classroom, as well as the creation of a secure and welcoming learning atmosphere where all students feel valued and respected, are examples of how to do this.

A study that appeared in the journal Social Psychology of Education found that making a culturally responsive classroom atmosphere can improve students’ academic performance, engagement, and sense of belonging.

b. Introducing different perspectives to students – One of the most effective ways to lessen the threat of stereotypes in the classroom is to aggressively challenge the temptation that many of us have to only want to hear from people we agree with. While it’s not ideal, the prevalence of stereotypes in literature, movies, teaching materials, and even current events offers students a fantastic learning opportunity. To demonstrate how readily we accept biases as fact, ask students to identify stereotypes they see in curriculum materials or the news and discuss them in class. Be sure to call attention to any preconceptions that are ignored.

c. Becoming a role model – Research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that students can acquire excellent role models who dispel misconceptions through their schools. This may entail bringing in speakers from different backgrounds as guests and highlighting the achievements of accomplished people of various sexes, races, and ethnicities. 

For example, Kalpana Chawla is one instance of a role model who disproved prejudices. The first Indian-American woman to fly in space, Chawla worked as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator on the STS-87 mission in 1997. She pursued her passion for becoming a pilot despite numerous barriers and preconceptions that implied women were not capable of pursuing professions in aviation. Kalpana Chawla migrated to the United States to continue her education after completing her studies in India. She eventually joined NASA as an astronaut and participated in two space flights, making important advances in science.

Stereotypes can have a large and widespread effect on pupils in schools, especially for girls and students from underrepresented groups. Positive stereotypes can promote and maintain inequities, while negative preconceptions might restrict pupils’ academic performance and hope for the future.

There are several strategies educators can employ to lessen the impact of stereotypes in classrooms and counteract these detrimental effects. Promoting diversity and inclusion in the curriculum and classroom is one practical tactic that can aid in dispelling prejudices and fostering a more welcoming learning environment. The successes and contributions of people who have overcome preconceptions and found success can be highlighted by educators as good role models for pupils from varied backgrounds.

The effects of stereotypes can also be diminished by challenging them and promoting critical thinking. Teachers can contribute to the development of a more thoughtful and reflective learning environment by encouraging students to challenge stereotypes and consider their own prejudices. Finally, helping students from marginalized areas overcome the harmful impacts of stereotypes requires supporting them and providing them with tools. Access to mentorship programs, academic support services, and resources for families and communities are all part of this.

By putting these tactics into practice, schools may encourage a more equal and inclusive learning environment for all children while reducing the detrimental effects of stereotypes. In the end, it is only through these initiatives that we can work to build a society in which every person has an equal chance to prosper.

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