Feminist pedagogy may be radical – but it should be the norm

Teacher students are still educated in universities to serve the existing education system – not to question it, says Warda Ahmed, a school teacher student and the chairperson of the new Feminist Party of Finland.

This autumn I returned back to my studies at the Department of Teacher Education in the University of Helsinki after a break.

I had started my studies ten years earlier, as a fresh high school graduate. Until that point, I had gained majority of my understanding of the world through Finnish education institutions, delivered to me by teachers and school books in readymade packages.

Sadly, the readymade packages do not disappear when entering the university gates. Even if different scientific paradigms and pedagogical orientations would sometimes be discussed or mentioned in side notions at the universities, we as teacher students are still being educated to serve the current education system organized according to a ready-planned curriculum.

In spite of the fact that new courses adding understanding on issues within equality have appeared in the Finnish teacher education curriculum, the inherent structure of “we” and “they” remains.

Pupils as well as representatives of minorities, are still seen as objects.

As a screaming example of this, a new student in the didactics class asked how can they get new tools to control the crowd of pupils in the classroom so that the teacher will be able to teach everything included in the curriculum.

Only outside of the university’s lecture halls have I acquired the critical approach to education. That is, I have turned to the activists’ networks, blogs, podcasts, feminism seminars, as well as literature circles and books not included in the official university curriculum.

What I have learned is that we need feminist education.

FEMINIST EDUCATION is radical education which acknowledges that different forms of power related to class, gender, ethnicity, personal abilities, religion, culture and sexuality all influence on education.

Feminist education involves actions that try to actively disclose the detrimental power structures, and deconstruct them. The aim is to advance the equality of the pupils.

When the school strengthens and reproduces the hierarchies and the norms of the society, the task of feminist pedagogy is to disclose these hidden curricula – reveal and question them.

Feminist education is gender sensitive and it tackles the power hierarchies of everyday life.

School satisfaction, career choices and guiding someone to education for pupils with special needs is still strongly related to gender. Special attention to the reasons is required and feminist education aims to do just that.

Feministic education also actively creates new action models, such as ways in which the cooperation between the parents and the school would be “education partnership” instead of merely one-way dictating.

Feminist education would allow uncertainty and learning by doing -method for the teacher.

LOOKING BACK NOW, even as a freshman at the university, I was still mainly what could be called information receiver. I did not have enough tools to critically evaluate or put in question the views I was offered on pedagogy.

At most, the researcher-teacher reflects their own performance in passing forward information; the teacher does not put in question their position in front of the class room. Putting the education system under question is not the goal of the teacher education.

But it certainly should be.

The book Teaching to transgress – education as the practice of freedom by bell hooks gave me the ideal of teaching. That ideal is the continuous state of uncertainty. Feminist educators are merciful toward themselves as educators, but simultaneously they are radical and do things differently.

In his book Radical Education, Juha Suoranta states: “Radical education means informed learning alone and together, as well as societal activities to advance equality.”

May this be the guideline for a feminist educator.