New Delhi: The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has directed educational institutions to desist from making seating arrangements in classrooms that promote gender bias. Similarly, schools should do away with gender-segregated queues and gender equality should be ensured during the conduct of arts and sports events, the resource organization set up by the Government of India said in its latest draft manual titled ‘Integrating Transgender concerns in Schooling Processes’.
The draft guideline, aimed at creating a safe and supportive school climate for transgender students, exhorts teachers and school staff to take appropriate measures to achieve the objectives. It also asks the schools to think of introducing a gender-neutral uniform for students.
Some of the students, especially from Class V1 onwards, will have certain preferences in clothing. They may not feel comfortable in a particular dress. Schools can introduce gender-neutral uniforms which are comfortable, climate-appropriate, fit and not conforming to a particular gender, the direction read.
A 16-member committee convened by NCERT’s Department of Gender Studies head, Jyotsna Tiwari, prepared the draft manual.
The teachers should not address students in any way that points toward their gender. Instead, they can use terms like ‘children’ and ‘students’. Also, they should be aware of the various physical, mental, and sexual harassment that transgender students may face at schools, the panel stated.
Similarly, there should not be any gender discrimination when it comes to the appointment of school staff, including the teachers, it said.
Special toilets for transgender students
Though an NCERT draft manual issued in November 2020 also aimed at enhancing the learning atmosphere of transgender students, the same was taken off following the concerns raised by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
One of the stipulations of the manual was that schools should set up gender-neutral toilets. However, the NCPCR opposed the same, while pointing out that it may result in increase in sexual atrocities.
The new draft manual provides for the setting up of special toilet complexes for transgender students or extending those meant for the children requiring special care to the former.
While the previous report dealt extensively with the needs of all categories of gender-nonconforming students, the latest module focuses on transgender persons by birth. The previous manual was prepared by the former head of the Department of Gender Studies, Poonam Agarwal. However, she along with Professor Mona Yadav, a member of the department, were transferred out following the controversy.