Author: GLE Team | Published on 1 August 2023


In many contexts, teachers work with learning materials which have been developed for them and their learners to meet specific objectives. Research has found learning materials and books across the world can perpetuate harmful gender stereotyping and norms. Learners frequently associate themselves with characters, illustrations, stories, authors, pictures, and achievements that are present or not present in learning materials. 

The steps below can help you evaluate learning materials for gender stereotyping before you share them. This is not so that you can remove them from use in your classroom, because in many cases this may not be possible. All learning materials, even ones with stereotypes, can offer an opportunity to talk with learners about gender roles. As the educator in this situation you play a vital role in raising awareness how gender stereotyping in learning resources may be harmful. 

Stage 1: Evaluate Frequency of Male and Female Appearance 

Look at the learning materials and answer the following questions:

  • How many males and females are in the materials (texts and images)? 
  • How often do the male and female characters appear in the texts?
  • How often are the male and female characters' names in the materials? 

Stage 2: Evaluate the Nature of Character Appearance 

Look at the learning materials and answer the following questions:

  • How are the male and females portrayed in the materials? Do they have stereotyped male or female behaviours or not? 
  • Do some of the pictures break the gender stereotypes in your society?
  • How are roles and relationships between male and female characters portrayed – are they stereotypical or not? For example, female only portrayed as mothers/carers or doing domestic activities. 
  • What adjectives are used to describe males and females?
  • How are family or household roles distributed to female and male characters (e.g. cooking, spending money, making decisions, caring for children or the elderly, washing clothes)? 

Stage 3: Evaluate the Illustrations and Images

Look at the learning materials and answer the following questions:

  • How are men/women/boys/girls/non-binary persons portrayed in illustrations and images?
  • What frequency are men/women/boys/girls visible in the illustrations? 
  • Do the illustrations and images portray both women and men positively, and in ways that are free from gender bias? For example, are women and girls portrayed as active economic players not just passive actors. 
  • Are images and illustrations culturally appropriate?
  • Do the illustrations and images reflect the diversity of society? Is there a variety of people with, for instance, different skin colours, clothes, heights and body shapes? Are minorities like people with disabilities represented?

Stage 4: Evaluate the Settings

Look at the learning materials and answer the following questions:

  • What is the place and time in which the characters are presented in pictures or drawings? (e.g. schools, offices, homes, in the field, etc.)?
  • Does the setting communicate any message about the roles of women and men?

Learning materials should communicate that women and men can play interchangeably different roles in society. They should be inclusive and representative of diverse values so that no learner feels excluded, disempowered and marginalised. 

Although You might need to keep using materials that are not inclusive and perpetuate harmful stereotypes, educators must find ways to discuss and highlight this with their learners to raise critical awareness about stereotyping and bias and the harms that these may cause. 


Gender Stereotypes: a generalised view or preconception about attributes or characteristics, or the roles that are or ought to be possessed by, or performed by, women and men. A gender stereotype is harmful when it limits learners’ capacity to develop their personal abilities, pursue their education opportunities, professional careers and/or make choices about their lives.

Gender Norms: are ideas, standards and expectations to which women and men generally conform and how they should act within a range that defines a particular society, culture and community at that point in time. They are often internalised early in life, gender norms can establish a life cycle of gender socialisation and stereotyping.

Want to know more about the GLE Team?

In a groundbreaking initiative, the British Council, under the English Connects programme, undertook a transformative mission to champion gender-inclusive practices in Sub-Saharan Africa with a cohort of 41 dedicated teacher educators and teachers from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Sudan. This dynamic group referred to as the GLE Team worked together to design this resource.

Read about our Creating Gender Pedagogy Resources for Teachers project: