Students get school books changed after highlighting gender and race inequality

By Louise Walsh

One of Ireland's oldest education publishers are to revisit a series of school books, after young students in a Dublin national school highlighted gender and race inequality.

Book company Folens have agreed to review their 'Fuimeanna and Focail' series after fifth class girls in Mary Help of Christians NS in Dublin 7 wrote to them on the issue.

The group of fifth class students from Mary Help of Christians NS with their teacher Kathy Kelly

In a letter to the school, Folens said: "We reviewed the book ourselves internally and would agree with the conclusions that you reached in relation to gender and equality representation.

"As a result, when we next update this series we will make every effort to ensure that the books better reflect gender equality and include more females playing sports and working in a professional capacity.

"Similarly, we will also make sure the illustrations include a wider range of ethnicities as well as disabled people."

Praising the young students, the letter adds: "We were very impressed not only with the quality of the letters, but also by the rigour of your research."

Folens added in a statement: "We always welcome feedback on our books, especially from the children themselves.

"The lifecycle of school books can be very long, so sometimes the content can be a little out of step with the times."

One of the parents Teresa Gogarty praised the school for allowing the students to voice their opinion.

"My daughter Shona is in the class and they've a great teacher in Kathy Kelly.

They were going through the workbook and one page on careers, showed men in all the jobs of pilots and doctors. This started a conversation among the 11-year-olds and all 21 of the girls decided they'd put pen to paper and write to Folens about it.

"It's fantastic to see girls of that age encouraged to have their say and speak out if they see something as wrong.

"In writing back and acknowledging the gender inequality, Folens showed the students that it's worth putting your views across and airing your opinions.

"The girls are delighted that they've changed a bit of the system," she added.

Her daughter Shona said: "There was only one woman shown in a professional job and this was stereotypical as she was a nurse.

"There was no people represented with disabilities. We thought that in this day and age, it is unacceptable that our books do not reflect the diversity in our school."

Teacher Kathy Kelly said: "I'd just like to say I'm very proud of the girls for being such practical agents of change at such a young age."

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