The New Gender Equality Policy Focuses on Education System
The Swedish government has now set out the direction for future gender equality policy. In addition to a new gender equality agency, the government proposes two new national gender equality objectives, for education and health, as well as a revision of the national specifications of academic degrees, the so-called Qualifications Ordinance.
On 16 November, the government presented a gender equality document titled Makt, mål och myndighet – feministisk politik för en jämställd framtid along with a 10-year national strategy for ending men’s violence against women. The document describes policy objectives, how the implementation is to be organised and what the system for follow-up looks like. The domains of health and education are identified as two new national gender equality objectives, to be added to the four already existing objectives, under the overarching goal of women and men having the same power to shape society and their own lives.
Fredrik Bondestam serves as research coordinator at the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research and director of a government project titled Gender Mainstreaming in Academia (GMA). He sees it as important that the area of education is assigned more attention.
– It is an important first step to a more coherent idea regarding how gender inequality can be prevented in the entire educational system, from preschool to university. Right now the levels of knowledge and ambition differ across the educational stages.
The government, which was represented by Åsa Regnér (Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality), Morgan Johansson (Minister for Justice and Migration) and Gustav Fridolin (Minister for Education), presented its document at a press conference. Nothing was mentioned there about possible consequences of the gender equality policy for the research policy.
– The research field concerned with education and the school system is largely missing a comprehensive view of gender equality. This can be attributed to a lack of priority in research policy on strengthening education-related research with gender perspectives on issues regarding knowledge development across the educational stages. Policymakers must present well-considered suggestions for how the gender equality objective for education is to be achieved in that respect.
New Exam Objectives in Professional Education
One of the measures included in the strategy is a revision of the Qualifications Ordinance for the study programmes deemed most relevant and in which the students can be expected to encounter perpetrators and victims of violence in their future professions. Fredrik Bondestam has called for clear formulations about gender equality and men’s violence against women in the Ordinance.
– Simply ensuring that those who are studying to become doctors, psychologists, social workers, legal experts and other professional groups are provided the knowledge before they enter the labour market will be very beneficial. When the Swedish act on violence against women was adopted in 1997, several degree programmes were assigned additional learning targets concerning knowledge about men’s violence against women. Since then, however, these targets have disappeared or been replaced with vague formulations about human rights.
Together with Magdalena Lindroth, Fredrik Bondestam authored a report titled Godtycklig jämställdhet: Implementering av examensordningens mål för jämställdhet i professionsutbildningar vid Göteborgs universitet (freely translated ‘arbitrary gender equality: implementation of the objectives for gender equality laid down in the Swedish Qualification Ordinance at the University of Gothenburg’) in 2014. They concluded that the new degree structure introduced in 2007 has resulted in a watering down of stated degree objectives. The report was written as a local pilot study and the authors pointed to the need for a corresponding national study.
– There is no reason to believe that the University of Gothenburg differs from other higher education institutions,’ says Fredrik Bondestam. ‘The government’s initiative is appreciated, not least against the background of the huge need for knowledge about gender issues and gender equality that we see among universities, government agencies, municipalities and other actors involved in gender equality work.
Two Official Government Reports
The Swedish government’s gender equality document and national strategy to deal with men’s violence against women is based on the government reports Nationell strategi mot mäns våld mot kvinnor och hedersrelaterat våld och förtryck (SOU 2015:55) and Mål och myndighet – en effektiv styrning av jämställdhetspolitiken (SOU 2015:68). The Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research has commented on both of these documents. These and other comments are available in Swedish.