Set books are an important socializing tool and play a crucial role in determining students‟ worldview of gender relations in society. Gender responsiveness is one of the emerging issues that have attracted major debates in various forums including in the education system in general and choice of set books in particular. This study examined the gender responsiveness of selected KCSE literature set books, and students‟ and English teachers‟ responses to the gender issues in the set books. The study applied the ABC Gender Analysis Model and the Reader – Response theory. The ABC Gender Analysis Model measures gender responsiveness of set books and other curriculum materials while the Reader – Response theory emphasizes the reader‟s role in creating meaning of a text and experience of a literary work. The findings indicated that the KCSE set books all had elements of gender bias, stereotyping of character and role, unequal representation of male and female characters and use of gender insensitive language. However, the study also revealed that some writers had made attempts to make the literature set books gender responsive. In addition, students‟ responses revealed a great sense of gender awareness and sensitivity in regard to the gender issues raised in the set books. Finally, teachers‟ responses revealed that the teachers were keen and enthusiastic about gender issues in set books despite the fact that they had no formal training on how to implement the gender policy in education. The study recommends closer scrutiny of literature set books, in-house training of teachers on gender responsiveness, sensitizing students on gender responsive set books and providing checklists for identifying gender stereotypes and other relevant gender issues in set books. In addition, it also recommends the development of a more gender responsive curriculum in tandem with Kenya‟s developmental aspiration where men and women are viewed as partners in the development of all sectors of society.
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
Background to the study
The debate on gender equality, stereotyping, bias, gender responsiveness and other related gender concepts has been ongoing in Kenya. Several pressure groups, especially those working with Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) and the Convention of Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), have been calling for gender equality in general and for an education system that addresses gender equality and gender responsiveness especially in regard to set books that are used in our schools.
Since Kenya attained independence in 1963, several efforts have been made to show the country‟s commitment to the principle of human equality. Kenya subscribes to international bodies such as the United Nations (UN), implying that it is committed to adhere to the UN Charter Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Kenya has also participated in several international conferences (World Women Conferences in Mexico (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995) concerned with gender equality which binds it to implement their declarations. One of the issues discussed in those conferences and which is significant to this study was gender equality in relation to set books and other curriculum materials used in schools. Closer to home, there have been numerous calls for a gender responsive curriculum at all levels of education in Kenya.
In an effort to reverse the process of female gender marginalization, the United Nations (UN), adopted the Convention of Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1979. According to the UN, CEDAW defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. The office of UN High Commissioner on human rights notes that Kenya ratified CEDAW in 1984. The Convention resolved, among other resolutions, that “any stereotyping concept of the roles of men and women at all levels and in all forms of education should be eliminated, in particular, by revision of set books and school programs” (UN, 1979).