Female Representation in Primary School English Textbooks: The Portrait of Gender in Indonesian EFL Education


Scholars have critically discussed numerous reports on gender representations in language textbooks, but much less attention has been paid to female characters depicted in EFL textbooks used in Islamic primary schools. To fill this gap, the current study dissects the identities of female characters in two English language textbooks proposed by Islamic schools and used nationally in all private primary schools in Indonesia under the global Islamic school association. Quantitative content analysis using Brugeilles and Cromer’s framework for character coding scheme and critical discourse analysis were used to critically review the textbook’s content. The findings from sixteen chapters revealed that female characters are underrepresented, and they are depicted as having home and family careers, being sensitive introverts, being involved in low-risk activities, and wearing Islamic-based attire.

Keywords: content analysis, critical discourse analysis, gender representation, language textbook

[1] Ansary H, Babaii E. Subliminal sexism in current ESL/EFL textbooks. The Asian EFL Journal. 2003;5(1):1–15.

[2] Barton A, Sakwa LN. The representation of gender in English textbooks in Uganda. Pedagogy, Culture and Society. 2012;20(2):173–190. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681366.2012.669394

[3] Lestariyana RPD, Widodo HP, Sulistiyo U. Female representation in governmentmandated English language textbooks used in Indonesian junior high schools. Sexuality and Culture. 2020;24(4):1150–1166. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-020- 09752-2

[4] Lee JFK. Gender representation in Hong Kong primary school ELT textbooks – A comparative study. Gender and Education. 2014;26(4):356–376. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540253.2014. 916400

[5] K.W.K. Law and A.H.N. Chan, “Gender Role Stereotyping in Hong Kong’s Primary School Chinese Language Subject Textbooks,.” Asian Journal of Women’s Studies. vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 49–69, 2004

[6] Bandura A. Social cognitive theory of mass communication. Media Psychology. 2001;3(3):265–299. https://doi.org/10.1207/ S1532785XMEP0303_03

[7] Foroutan Y. Gender representation in school textbooks in Iran: The place of languages. Current Sociology. 2012;60(6):771–787. https://doi.org/ 10.1177/0011392112459744

[8] H.P. Widodo, “A Critical Micro-semiotic Analysis of Values Depicted in the Indonesian Ministry of National Education-Endorsed Secondary School English Textbook.,” In: English Language Education book series. pp. 131–152. Springer International Publishing, London (2018).

[9] Rifkin, B. Gender representation in foreign language textbooks: A case study of textbooks of Russian. Modern Language Journal. 1998;82(2):217–236. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.1998.tb01195.x

[10] Lee JFK. In the pursuit of a gender-equal society: Do Japanese EFL textbooks play a role? Journal of Gender Studies 2019;28(2):204–217. https://doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2018.1423956

[11] Lee JFK, Collins P. Construction of gender: A comparison of Australian and Hong Kong English language textbooks. Journal of Gender Studies. 2010;19(2):121–137. https://doi.org/10.1080/ 09589231003695856

[12] R. Goyal and H. Rose, “Stilettoed Damsels in Distress: the (un)changing depictions of gender in a business English textbook.,” Linguistics and Education. vol. 58, no. August, pp. 1–15, 2020

[13] Badan Pusat Statistik. Statistik pendidikan 2020. Badan Pusat Statistik, Jakarta - Indonesia; 2020.

[14] Ariyanto S. A portrait of gender bias in the prescribed Indonesian ELT textbook for junior high school students. Sexuality and Culture. 2018;22(4):1054–1076. https://doi.org/10.1007/ s12119-018-9512-8

[15] A. Tyarakanita, N.A. Drajati, D. Rochsantiningsih, and J. Nurkamto, “The Representation of Gender Stereotypes in Indonesian English Language Textbooks.,” Sexuality & Culture. vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 1140–1157, 2021

[16] Setyono B. The portrayal of women in nationally-endorsed English as a foreign language (EFL) textbooks for senior high school students in Indonesia. Sexuality and Culture. 2018;22(4):1077–1093. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-018-9526-2

[17] Yonata F, Mujiyanto Y. The representation of gender in English textbooks in Indonesia. Language Circle: Journal of Language and Literature. 2017;12(1):91–101.

[18] Damayanti IL. Gender construction in visual images in textbooks. Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics. 2014;3(2):100–116.

[19] Baghdadi M, Rezaei A. Gender representation in English and Arabic foreign language textbooks in Iran: A comparative approach. Journal of International Women’s Studies. 2015;16(3):16–32.

[20] Dahmardeh M, Kim SD. Gender representation in Iranian English language coursebooks. English Today. 2020;36(1):12–22. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266078419000117

[21] Badan Pusat Statistik. Statistik pendidikan 2021. Badan Pusat Statistik, Jakarta; 2021.

[22] Muttaqin T, Wittek R, Heyse L, van Duijn M. The achievement gap in Indonesia? Organizational and ideological differences between private Islamic schools. School Effectiveness and School Improvement. 2020;31(2):212–242. https://doi.org/10.1080/09243453.2019.1644352

[23] Bryner K. Piety projects: Islamic schools for Indonesia’s urban middle class.

[Theses], Columbia University; 2013. Available from: http://search.proquest.com.ezaccess.library.uitm.edu.my/docview/1366072964?accountid=42518

[24] Sulistiyo U, Haryanto E, Widodo HP, Elyas T. The portrait of primary school English in Indonesia: Policy recommendations. Education 3-13. 2020;48(8):945–959. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004279.2019.1680721

[25] Zein MS. Elementary English education in Indonesia: Policy developments, current practices, and future prospects. English Today. 2017;33(1):53–59. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266078416000407

[26] N. Agha, G.K. Syed, and D.A. Mirani, “Exploring the representation of gender and identity: Patriarchal and citizenship perspectives from the primary level Sindhi textbooks in Pakistan.,” Women’s Studies International Forum. vol. 66, no. jan-feb, pp. 17–24, 2018

[27] V.C. Cobano-Delgado and V. Llorent-Bedmar, “Identity and gender in childhood. Representation of Moroccan women in textbooks.,” Women’s Studies International Forum. vol. 74, no. May-June, pp. 137–142, 2019.

[28] Brugeilles S, Cromer C. Analysing gender representations in school textbooks. Centre Population & Development, Paris; 2019.

[29] N. Fairclough, Critical Discourse Analysis. Routledge, London, 2013.

[30] Curaming EM, Curaming RA. Gender (in)equality in English textbooks in the Philippines: A critical discourse analysis. Sexuality and Culture. 2020;24(4):1167– 1188. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-020-09750-4

[31] Yang CCR. Gender representation in a Hong Kong primary English textbook series: The relationship between language planning and social policy. Current Issues in Language Planning. 2011;12(1):77–88. https://doi.org/10.1080/14664208.2011.541390

[32] Asadullah MN, Islam KMM, Wahhaj Z. Gender bias in Bangladeshi school textbooks: Not just a matter of politics or growing influence of Islamists. Review of Faith and International Affairs. 2018;16(2):84–89. https://doi.org/10.1080/ 15570274. 2018.1469821

[33] L.T. O’Brien, A. Hitti, E. Shaffer, A.R. Van Camp, D. Henry, and P.N. Gilbert, “Improving Girls’ Sense of Fit in Science,.” Social Psychological and Personality Science. vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 301–309, 2017

[34] Litosseliti L, Sunderland J. Gender identity and discourse analysis. John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam, Netherland; 2002.

[35] Mills S. Language and sexism. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; 2008.

[36] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). A guide for gender equality in teacher education policy and practices. UNESCO, Paris; 2015.