A few weeks back on international women's day, KTH announced their new plan to integrate equality and diversity as a mandatory part into the curriculum starting from this autumn. This created a lot of attention and many questions have been raised; why is this done and how will this be carried out? That is why we try to summarize the key point and share some interesting insights from Anna Wahl with you. Maybe some of you know her from courses like “gender structures and gender equality in technology work-life”. Anna is both a professor, has published several books covering this topic and is vice principal for equality at KTH.
Malvina: Can you tell us what this new integration of gender equality implies?
Anna: Previously, there have been some programs which already included courses or lectures about equality and gender studies. What is happening now is that every program at KTH (120 in total) will integrate these topics to some extent. We have been working with integration of such topics before, however now this will be a mandatory part in all programs. For some programs, which are already mature within these topics this won’t change anything.
Malvina: Can you provide some more specifics on how exactly this integration will look like?
Anna: This new element will not be an entire course or module, more a lecture or something similar that will be included in another course. It shall be included somewhere into the student's program and can occur, depending on the program, in the beginning or at a later stage of one's studies. (This is decided individually by each program responsible at the respective school)
It is hard to provide an exact plan about how this integration will be, because we are continuously working together with the educational department. We will start with 10 programs at every school (so 50 in total) and implement this. 2022 the remaining programs will follow.
Malvina: You mentioned that it will be included as a mandatory element into one's educational program, does that mean it will be examined?
Anna: Yes, that is right. However, it can be examined by being part of an exam or submitting an assignment, that is up to every program. This is important to examine such an element in order to see if the students actually have understood the knowledge that was presented to them. So this element will not have any specific amount of credits one can obtain, however be integrated in the total amount of credits one needs to pass the overall course.
Malvina: What will the conveying content focus on?
Anna: We want to spread knowledge about general definitions such as equality, diversity and equal treatment. What does these words mean, where do they come from, how can one find out more about inequality. We want all students to know about the law of discrimination and to understand that working with equality is something we continously need to work with to improve, which is part in both industries and university contexts. Therefore this shall help students once they enter the business life after graduation. Moreover, we want to show students how equality and sustainability are connected. FN:s global sustainability goals, where Gender Equality is the 5th goal and reduced Inequality is the 10th goal. Therebye, one can explain the connections and incorporate it into courses targeting sustainability. In addition to that we encourage all programs to find their connection in regards to their technical background and tell their individual stories related to these questions; How are questions regarding equality and diversity be important within the field of industry/research/ society, and how can we learn from that and become even better within our field.
Malvina: Which main goals did you have in mind when driving this integration?
Anna: Ideally this will fulfill 2 main purposes:
Students increase their knowledge about these concepts and take this gained perspective with them
Students can expand their knowledge even further by searching for more information at for example the library and/or take courses that will provide a deeper understanding
This shall cover the fundamentals and encourage our students to seek more information and understand the complexity!
In regards to teachers we think it is important they learn more about gender conscious pedagogy, so they can learn more about how to design a more equal and inclusive study environment. This can include how a teacher designs groups, presentations or how one gives the word to different people in the classroom.
Malvina: Will this integration be only done for the undergraduate level or can we expect it on the masters and research level as well?
Anna: This is done on every level, because we can not assume that everyone has studied their bachelor at KTH. So this means some might encounter this twice (or three times) in their education. Still, it will probably be in a very different way, because each program responsible will form its own version.
Malvina: You mentioned that this year 50 programs will start with this integration, how did you decide on which programs should implement this first?
Anna: Currently, I don’t know yet which programs have been chosen, because we do not decide on that. The schools themself are responsible for this, so the educational responsibles will decide on that and notify us sometime next week.
Malvina: Will this progress be followed up as well?
Anna: Every program responsible does a quality analysis of their program which is part of the schools report. Already today questions about equality and diversity are included in these reports. So we don’t plan to do a specific investigation. However, once we start implementing this we think we will gain more insights, which show us which aspects have worked well and which were more challenging areas to focus on more.
We work closely together with other gender researchers to produce material that can be reviewed by both teachers and students; from texts and short films to a guideline for teachers on how to handle examination, so there is enough support for everyone.
Malvina: Many have commented critically about this integration. Do you have any suggestion how to handle criticism against working with gender equality and diversity?
Anna: Often people comment that gender equality is only one's own opinion or only ideology or politics, and there it is important to tell that the development of technology is related to people, society and thereby technological progress does not happen within a small bubble but is connected to society. Therefore, this is a part of such a development and nothing more. Understanding the complexity of gender equality enables one as well to understand the development of technology and how everything is related to sustainability. So we are not going to educate everyone about opinions or ideologies. Focus lies on increasing knowledge rather than equality itself. Because not only because one is a young person one has the knowledge about these kinds of questions, which is a common misunderstanding. Many think that the younger generation knows about this. Not necessarily.
The reason why many people are irritated about this integration is because they think it occurs at the expense of other parts of one's education like mathematics courses, which is not true. It's a question about the quality of what we learn and this shall increase the quality in knowledge we educate.
Key points from this interview:
This integration will NOT be an entire course, only a part/moment in another course. Its exact design will each program responsible decide for themselves.
It will be mandatory and examined depending on how each program finds fit.
NO opinions, ideologies of political interest shall be educated on. However, concepts and principles about equality, diversity and equal treatment shall be educated on. This implies, understanding the law of discrimination, definitions of words, correlation to sustainability (FN:s sustainability goals) and more.
Student shall expend their knowledge and are encouraged to seek more knowledge afterwards
This is nothing new, some programs have included this and some do even more.
“Understanding the complexity of gender equality enables one as well to understand the development of technology and how everything is related to sustainability. “