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Nordic Network for Gender Equality Certification in Education

A gender equality certification for schools and preschools mainstreams gender equality work to education. It will encourage teachers and other school staff in their gender equality work, says researcher Mervi Heikkinen. Heikkinen is leading a new Nordic network of researchers and teachers.

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Experts from Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden will work together to develop criteria for the proposed gender equality certification. A joint Nordic certification is initiated by Cecilie Nørgaard, a member of the group. The first step will be to identify successful examples from Nordic schools and preschools.
‘We need to get a better understanding of which methods work and have proved successful,’ says Mervi Heikkinen, researcher at the University of Oulu.

Can you tell us about a successful example?
‘Sure, there are many. In Finland, for example, the government has introduced an amendment to a gender equality act consisting an obligation for compulsory schools to draft a gender equality action plan. One important feature of the plan is that the children and adolescents are supposed to be involved in the entire process of change. Together with the teachers, they are expected to point out problems, set goals and ponder over how to achieve them. This teaches the children to talk about gender and gender equality. The kids have come up with many different issues that need attention. They have for example pointed to problems concerning girls’ and boys’ access to toys in preschool.’

Why do we need a gender equality certification for schools and preschools?

Mervi Heikkinen. Foto: privat
 Mervi Heikkinen. Photo: private

‘We see the certification network as an important policy tool. The Nordic countries are world leading in gender equality, but we aren’t done yet. The gender equality work in education is not systematic enough. These are the types of innovative methods we need to reach the next level.’

The politicians still haven’t decided whether there will actually be a Nordic gender certification. Where do we stand at the moment?
‘It looks like we’ll have to start at the national level. We hope that it will lead to a Nordic certification down the road. The politicians are afraid that a certification system will get too big and expensive. Maybe we can convince them with our project that it won’t.’

What can the Nordic countries gain from cooperating?
‘We’re facing similar challenges and can benefit greatly from each other’s knowledge. The Nordic countries have taken important steps forward together in recent decades and that’s how we can reach even further. We need to challenge and inspire each other.’

What happens next in the network?
‘We’ve been able to gather a good group of researchers and teachers but are still looking for experts from Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. We’re also planning a seminar on successful examples from Nordic schools and preschools. The work will also result in a report on key features of successful practices on gender equality promotion in education.’


This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

Updated 2 October 2020