Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Independent: LGBT people ‘invisible’ in education system

12 December 2011 by Francesca Vella

In its recommendations on the national curriculum framework, the Malta Gay Rights Movement has said that the education authorities should be committed to ensure that the national curriculum deals with issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

MGRM noted that the four documents outlining the national curriculum framework deal with diversity and there is specific mention of certain grounds such as “age, gender, beliefs, personal development, socio-cultural background and geographical location”, as well as “learners’ identities, their language competence, intellectual abilities, aptitudes, interests and talents”.

However there is no reference to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression and this continues to render members of LGBT communities – students, parents, guardians, caregivers and staff – invisible in the Maltese education


In its letter to the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education, MGRM added that while reference is made to the learning environment, there is no mention of students’ physical and emotional safety.

Safety is a precondition for learning, and the absence of any reference to address bullying is a serious concern, said the movement, adding that while a number of policy development objectives have been set, these do not include a review of the current anti-bullying policy.

“Such a review is deemed necessary since homophobic and transphobic bullying is not currently addressed. LGBT students therefore remain at risk.”

Each student needs to be equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to live in today’s complex and diverse world. The following are a few of MGRM’s recommendations.

The education authorities should ensure that respect for diversity and inclusion on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression is incorporated in the curriculum in all subject areas.

Furthermore, language or behaviour that deliberately degrades, denigrates, labels, creates stereotypes, incites hatred, prejudice, discrimination and harassment towards students or employees on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identification, should not be tolerated.

Schools should be required to specifically include the prohibition of such language and behaviour in their Codes of Conduct for students.

A review and/or modification of material and programmes that promote stereotyping, discrimination, homophobia or heterosexism should be carried out, and materials or programmes that promote hatred or violence against LGBT people should be removed.

Adequate resources and training should be provided to help members of staff become agents of change, to use the curriculum effectively to promote critical thinking and to challenge homophobia, transphobia and heterosexism.

Classrooms, resource centres, school libraries, audio-visual collections and computer software should contain appropriate material and resources that accurately reflect the range of LGBT communities.

Academic and service programmes should be developed in every curriculum area to address the needs of underachieving LGBT students facing discrimination because of their own or their family members’ sexual orientation or gender identity.

The education authorities should acknowledge, through their communication to students, staff and the community that some children live in LGBT-headed families and need to be positively recognised and included as such as every grade level.

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