A Critical Exploration of Gender Portrayal: A Case Study of Instructional Materials Used in primary Schools in Singapore

Lee Ching Ting

English Language Honours AE, NIE, 1999


    This thesis explores the way in which language, as a social semiotic system, embodies gender ideologies in currently used English language instructional materials in primary schools in Singapore. This is based on views by social semioticians that language can have multiple meanings and that language choices reflect attitudes, values and beliefs of the society where the choices are made (Fairclough, 1989, 1992, 1995; Hodge & Kress, 1988).

    In its investigation of gender portrayal, the study employs several frameworks of analysis, starting with a systematic quantitative count of the visual images to a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the lexis. At this level, the study is mainly concerned with the visibility of males and females in terms of occurrence. The study next moves to a more delicate analysis of selected reading passages in terms of the transitivity selections made and the degree of dynamism of the processes involved. Furthermore, the more specific semantic properties of processes on each level of dynamism are examined. In order to ascertain whether activities suggested around the reading passages reinforce or lead to question gender ideologies, these tasks are classified according to Luke and Freebody's (1990) elements of reading competence.

    Finally, the study conducts interviews with teachers and a principal textbook writer to find out how teachers use the materials in their own classrooms as well as whether gender issues were considered in the production of these instructional materials.

    The thesis ends with a summary of major findings, suggestions of areas for further research and a discussion of pedagogical implications.