Gender and Sexual Identity in the Basic Education National Core Curriculum

In the National Core Curriculum for Finnish Basic Education is stated that promoting gender equality, equity and justice as well as increasing “knowledge and understanding of gender diversity” is a social mission for primary education. According to the Board of Education’s interpretation, this also includes gender variety and sexual orientation. Non-Discrimination Act and the Equity Act outline that all educational institutions should have and implement a plan to promote gender equality and to increase understanding of gender and sexual variety. (I talk of “variety” instead of “diversity” as I wish we begin to use a more positive and comprehensive terminology instead of an exclusive one. The term “diversity” involves a comparison [diverse compared to something] to something which we perceive as the norm, the binary norm in this case, and should not be so in my opinion).

In theory, for what concerns primary education

fundamental rights and the right to partake in education are safeguarded.

The Board of Education guarantees that

in educational institutions, school members are to be treated equitably not equally.

In the classroom and in the school

must be guaranteed visibility and appreciation of human diversity and the individual needs of all must be taken into account.

In practice, many schools do not implement the “positive sex education” as defined by the Non-Discrimination Act and the Equity Act.

Teachers often fear the reactions of the tutors and, in general, many schools adhere to the so called “social value-neutral norms”. In addition, even those teachers who would like to change this situation are left without help and without sufficient training on the subject.

It is fundamental to understand that Sexual rights are human rights and as such they are inalienable rights of ALL PEOPLE!

Everyone has the right to determine their own sexuality and gender identity. This means that everyone is allowed to make independent decisions regarding their own body, their sexual behavior, activities and e.g. choosing partners and relationships. This is a human right: the right to Self-determination. (You can read more about sexual rights on the Sexpo website .)

Sexual and gender variety must not be stigmatized nor people marginalized.

From what, then, could we begin to sensitively respect the diversity of people in the classroom? From small deeds that require nothing but empathy and understanding:

  • Try not to focus on appearance
  • Build equality by identifying, questioning, and dismantling gendering factors
  • Avoid keeping on traditional divisions between girls and boys
  • Appreciate the students’ choices, call them student by the name they choose, use neutral pronouns (e.g. THEM instead of HE / SHE)
  • A toilet is just a toilet, support genderless toilets, students can have health problems if they don’t dare go to the toilet. Using the “wrong” toilet can be a very dangerous trigger for bullying