TAIWAN: Studying media bias aids awareness of gender issues
An educational group is urging teachers to use news media as tools in the classroom
Monday, January 31, 2005
By Mo Yan-chih
Teachers should improve their media literacy and turn gender news into teaching materials, and provide better sex education, according to the Taiwan Gender Equity Education Association.
In a press conference held last week to announce their survey findings on news stories covering sex education last year, the association said it planned to inspire teachers to find fresh sex-education materials from the daily news.
"Our report shows that every week of last year, at least one news story related to sex education was covered by local media," said Su Chien-ling, director of the Taiwan Gender Equity Education Association.
"I think teachers should have no difficulties incorporating related coverage in the sex-education curriculum," Su said.
According to Su, due to the lack of professional training on teaching gender issues, many teachers are anxious about giving appropriate lessons in sex education, which became a required course last year.
The Gender Equality Education Law, which passed its third reading in the Legislative Yuan last year, requires schools to dedicate at least eight hours per semester to sex-education courses. Teachers need to incorporate gender equality-related issues in their curriculum. On top of this, colleges should provide more gender-related courses, according to the law.
Hu Ming-hua, a board member of the association who is also a teacher from Luotung High School in Ilan County, said that teaching materials are not hard to find. Coverage of cases of violence or death caused by the breakup of lovers, for example, serves as an excellent source of material for sex education.
"Sexual relationships are a very important issue for high-school students, who are more curious about sex and relationships. However, most schools fail to provide enough information on how to communicate with loved ones, or how to deal with breaking up," Hu said.
She also said that news about violence caused by improperly handled breakups gave her the chance to discuss relationships with students. Topics such as interactions between lovers, appropriate attitudes toward breakups, or power structures in gender relationships generated by the news enable students to develop critical thinking on the issue of gender equality.
Wu Cheng-ting, a teacher from Taipei County Wan Hua Junior High School, said that the Nine-Year Educational Program gave teachers more freedom to design the curriculum. He often used news items that students could relate to.
"Sexual harassment cases happen on campus, for example, and lead to intense discussions among students. We talk about how to improve safety on campus and how to deal with sex offenders," Wu said.
He also suggested that teachers find sex-education materials from entertainment stories or sports news, which are areas of news teenagers take most notice of.
"I would ask students to think about how female pop stars always look cute or beautiful, while male stars have to be cool. And why TV hosts always joke about female body parts? Then we can use the examples to talk about issues like gender stereotypes," Wu said.
According to the report, among all news found in Taiwan's online news Web sites last year, a total of 64 stories covered sex-education issues. The implementation of the Gender Equality Education Law made up 34 percent of the 64 news stories. About 22 percent of the reports involved sexual violence to students or on campus.
To improve media literacy, according to Bih Herng-dar, a professor of the Graduate Institute of Building and Planning at National Taiwan University, teachers should think about the issues behind each news report.
"Gay house parties, for example, become news because of sexual orientation. If it's just a party held by heterosexual people, it would be considered normal," Bih said.
He said that teachers should consider three questions when reading a news story: What issues does the event generate? Why does the event make news? How do the media cover the event?
He also said that reading messages hidden behind the news will help teachers find more teaching materials for sex education.
Lai Yu-mei, secretary general of the association, said it was important for teachers to develop better media literacy in order to help prevent students from misinterpreting distorted media messages. Then, by incorporating more gender-related news into the sex-education curriculum, teachers could help raise students' consciousness on gender equality.
Date Posted: 1/31/2005