Gendering the ICT curriculum: The paradox of choice
This paper looks at the ICT (information and communication technology) curriculum in New Zealand secondary schools and gendered participation patterns in different specialist ICT subjects. New Zealand has a permissive ICT curriculum, comprising a variety of subjects and characterised by choice and variation in the curriculum in practice at the local level. The data that are reported include results of (i) a national questionnaire survey of secondary schools, and (ii) a qualitative case study conducted in a large, coeducational New Zealand secondary school and involving classroom observations and interviews with teachers and students. It is suggested that the permissiveness of the curriculum, which ostensibly caters for the needs of students by providing choices, may, in some circumstances, effectively reinforce gender stereotypes relating to computer interests and practices. This is a paradox of choice. Questions are raised about the nature of the ICT curriculum in New Zealand and how it may contribute to or challenge gender stereotypes, future curriculum developments and, more broadly, how we can account for persistent gendered participation patterns in ICT subjects in schools.