Women in Alternative Education

Women haven’t always had it best when it comes to education. In many countries, women aren’t allowed to study or go to school. In some fields, such as science or engineering, women aren’t taken quite as seriously. Some women face harassment or prejudice just to get a grade they deserve. Even in the social context, there are still women who are disrespected, dishonoured, and unfairly judged by their peers just for being female. “Oh, you’re a woman, what would you know?”

The interesting thing, though, is that when it comes to alternative education, the participation of women is strong. You look at most exchange programs – women outnumber men. Women have leadership positions in alternative educational programs, they have strong roles. Just in Up With People I could give you 5 examples – finance, education, admissions, city coordination, performance. Linda, DeeAnn, Anke, Kerri-Ann, Nina.

There doesn’t seem to be as much problems with women in alternative education as there are in the traditional aspects. Plenty of top homeschooling advocates, such as Queensland’s own Eleanor Sparks, are women. The author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook, arguably the book on unschooling and alternative education, is a woman – Grace Llewellyn.

I remember giving a talk in my old school – a girl’s school – about options after SPM (O-Levels). Almost all the students never thought there were other choices besides immediate university enrolment. They were enthralled when I spoke of travels, of time off, of the freedom to learn what you wish how you wish. One part in particular was when I said that people might give them trouble for being a woman…but that shouldn’t stop them at all. They are strong, they are confident, they are smart – being a woman is in no way a hindrance to pursuing your own learning journey. That received a massive outpouring of support; they were definitely charged up!

Strangely, though, while there is also a strong educational network online, especially for women in education, rarely does it ever cross over with alternative education. The homeschoolers have their own network and don’t really cross over to others. Blogher, a women’s blogging network, has a Research, Academia, and Education blog and blogroll, which talks about those topics from a women’s perspective, but rarely – if ever! – will you see anything related to alternative education.

There are plenty of organizations dealing with alternative education – but none focused on women. There are plenty of women in education efforts – but none that dealt with anything beyond traditional schooling.

Why is this? Just because women have a bigger presence in alternative education as participants, does that mean they do not need support systems anymore? What about women and girls who are not aware that alternative education is an option? What about women and girls who are told that they should stay home and take care of their family, and lose out on opportunities to learn just because they’re not able to go to school anymore? What about those who want to promote women’s rights and feminism in an alternative education context? Where is the support for them?

Will there ever be support? Or will we just rely on the traditional support modes for traditional education, and leave the alternatives be?

Is there enough support for women in alternative education? Do they need support?

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