Critical Social Literacy: Empowering Young Women in a Disadvantaged Community

By Jenny Stirling, Iris Nastasi and Jennifer Symington.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

All Saints Catholic Girls College is situated in Liverpool, Sydney. Our students come from multicultural but somewhat disadvantaged backgrounds and, as young women, they are not often encouraged to demand their own freedoms, education or safety. In this context, and with added pressures from the media in the form of increasingly sexualised expectations, we have developed two programs which enhance students’ critical thinking and enable them to deconstruct the way they have been positioned in today’s society.
The ‘iWoman’ project has successfully embedded an ‘affirmative action’ approach across the curriculum, requiring students to analyse, question and celebrate the role of women in each subject area. The project has also inspired extra-curricular and enrichment activities which have widened our students’ career expectations.
The CORE (Come on, Respect Everybody) program has been devised and resourced by the Pastoral Care team at the school. In order to tackle issues of self-worth, gender image and potential sexual assault, the program uses discussion and multimedia to challenge stereotypes and enable girls to keep themselves and their peers emotionally and physically safe.
We will look at why and how these projects have come about and the resulting changes in student learning and welfare.

Keywords: Critical Thinking, Critical Literacy, Women, Gender Stereotypes and Feminism, Pastoral Care, Social Literacy

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 18, Issue 8, pp.265-284. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 4.765MB).

Jenny Stirling

Principal, All Saints Catholic Girls College, Liverpool, All Saints Catholic Girls College, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Jenny Stirling has been principal of All Saints Catholic Girls College for eight years. Before that, she was Principal and Assistant Principal at a number of Catholic girls schools. She has a passion for the education of young women. Jenny believes strongly in the empowerment of women as a vital element in the improvement of societies worldwide. Jenny also has a strong interest in teaching and learning, especially methodology which develops critical social analysis skills. She holds a Master of Arts (Education) from Macquarie University.

Iris Nastasi

Principal, Clancy Catholic College, Australia

Iris Nastasi graduated from University College, Galway, Ireland and began teaching in Australia in 1988. As an English teacher, she became particularly interested in the development of critical literacy in her students. Her appointment as Teaching and Learning Coordinator enabled an increased focus on gender perspective amongst texts. From 2007–2010, as Assistant Principal at All Saints Catholic Girls College, she collaborated around the development of a pastoral program which focuses on the challenges faced by teenaged girls. This led to the creation if the iWoman project which was designed to embed the values of pastoral care into the curriculum. She is currently Principal at Clancy Catholic College, West Hoxton, Sydney.

Jennifer Symington

Leader of Pedagogy, All Saints Catholic Girls College, New South Wales, Australia

Jennifer Symington is an English and Geography teacher at All Saints Catholic Girls College in Liverpool, Sydney. In addition to her teaching qualifications, she holds a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) from Sydney University. During her work as a Year Coordinator, she developed pastoral care initiatives which boosted student morale and encouraged girls to think critically about the ways in which the media have portrayed and positioned women. Jennifer’s interest in the research around sexual assault within adolescent relationships led to her developing and implementing the CORE2 program. She is now the Leader of Pedagogy at All Saints Girls and is relishing the opportunity to ensure that the young women of Western Sydney are empowered and inspired by their education.


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