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Williams College

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Program Name

China: Language, Cultures, and Ethnic Minorities


As the first major social environment most children will encounter outside the family, school plays a pivotal role in the socialization of gender roles for young children. The aim of this research is to examine how young children learn and practice gender roles in Chinese school environments. In what ways do teachers and adults communicate messages about gender to children, and how do children receive and internalize these messages? What do teachers consciously intend to teach children about gender, and what do they unconsciously teach through their actions? Over the course of one month, I attended classes and observed teacher-student interactions during several visits to a recently established private elementary school. Additionally, I conducted formal and informal interviews with teachers, focusing on their beliefs about gender. Though teachers claimed to treat boys and girls equally in the classroom, teachers in fact held different expectations for children based on traditional gender stereotypes, creating a “hidden curriculum” of gender relations that children were expected to learn (Chen, 2010, p. 112). By speaking more frequently with boys in class, demanding quieter and calmer behavior from girls, and permitting more rowdiness and loudness from boys, teachers reinforce a model of gender in which boys can be active and girls must be passive.


Asian Studies | Education | Elementary Education | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Personality and Social Contexts


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