A comparative study of gender representation in junior high school EFL textbooks of Hong Kong and Japan





gender equality, gender representation, Hong Kong, Japan, comparative analysis, EFL textbooks


This study aims to investigate the representation of gender and the presence of male dominance in spoken discourse in two selected English Language textbooks for junior high school year one students: Longman English EDGE (2nd Edition) 1A and 1B in Hong Kong, and New Horizon: English Course Book 1 in Japan, respectively. This research employs both qualitative and quantitative analyses to examine the content of dialogues in each unit. Key areas of analysis include the number of domestic and occupational roles assigned to male, female, and gender-neutral characters, the range of activities undertaken by these characters, the character initiating conversations, the occurrence of males, females and gender-neutral characters in dialogues, and the number of spoken words and turns by them. The findings indicated an improvement in gender equality in both textbooks in various aspects, compared with other earlier textbooks which were examined by other researchers (Lee & Collins, 2008, 2010; Lee, 2018). In terms of role allocation and activities, a relatively balanced representation of male and female characters was observed. Female characters demonstrated a higher frequency of initiating conversations and taking turns. The average number of words spoken per turn by male and female characters was similar in the LE1A and LE1B textbooks, but male characters still spoke more per turn in NH1 textbook despite female characters taking more turns. Moreover, LE1A and LE1B employed gender-neutral names to mitigate gender stereotypes but gender-neutral names were not utilized in the Japanese textbook, despite the author’s effort to achieve gender equality. Considering these findings, this study reveals that male characters were underrepresented in the textbooks in Hong Kong and suggests that it is crucial to enhance gender awareness among English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers, provide explicit gender-sensitive instruction, and establish specific guidelines by educational authorities to assist textbook authors in creating gender-inclusive educational materials.

Author Biographies

  • Dexter Yim, The University of Oxford

    Dexter Yim is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics for Language Teaching at The University of Oxford. After completing his studies in English Literature at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, he continued his academic journey by studying a master’s degree in creative writing and a PGDE (English Language Education) at The University of Edinburgh and The University of Hong Kong, respectively. With five years of experience teaching English in Hong Kong, his research interests include second language (L2) vocabulary acquisition, L2 motivation, language assessment, pedagogical approaches, and self-regulated learning.
    Email: dexterluckyim@gmail.com

  • Rolian Lee, Centre for Language Education, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

    Rolian Lee (Corresponding Author) is a lecturer at the Center for Language Education, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She acquired her master’s degree in Applied Linguistics at the University of Hong Kong and achieved an overall distinction. Her dissertation, entitled “Discursive Leadership of Anson Chan and Carrie Lam: How do the most “Powerful” Hong Kong Women in Politics Take their Stances?”, was awarded a distinction and published at the HKU Scholars Hub. Her research interests include discourse analysis, Systemic Functional Linguistics and pedagogies in EAP/ESP, discursive leadership, and gender and language.
    Email: lcrolian@ust.hk


Alter, G., & Köffler, N. (2021). Let boys explain the world to girls who do not know - visual representations of gender and diversity in Austrian primary textbooks and implications for diversity-sensitive education. Journal of Visual Literacy, 40(3-4), 149-169. https://doi.org/10.1080/1051144X.2021.1974770

Amini, M., & Birjandi, P. (2012). Gender bias in the Iranian high school EFL textbooks. English Language Teaching, 5(2), 134-147. http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/elt.v5n2p134

Bahman, M., & Rahimi, A. (2010). Gender representation in EFL materials: An analysis of English textbooks of Iranian high schools. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 9, 273-277. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.12.149

Barton, A., & Sakwa, L. N. (2012). The representation of gender in English textbooks in Uganda. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 20(2), 173-190. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681366.2012.669394

Basow, S. A. (1992). Gender: Stereotypes and roles (3rd ed). Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

Blumberg, R. L. (2008). The invisible obstacle to educational equality: Gender bias in textbooks. Prospects (Paris), 38(3), 345-361. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11125-009-9086-1

Brugeilles, C. & Cromer, S. (2009). Promoting gender equality through textbooks: A methodological guide. Paris: UNESCO. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001588/158897E.pdf

Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. Routledge.

Canale, G., & Furtado, V. (2021). Gender in EFL Education: Negotiating Textbook Discourse in the Classroom. Changing English, 28(1), 58-71. https://doi.org/10.1080/1358684X.2020.1812377

Carroll, D. and Kowitz, J. (1994) Using Concordancing Techniques to Study Gender Stereotyping in ELT Textbooks. In Sunderland, J. (Ed.) Exploring Gender: Questions and Implications for English Language Education, 73-82.

Davis, B. (1995). Gender bias in school textbooks. London: Women’s and Youth Affairs Division, Commonwealth Secretariat.

Deutschmann, M., Steinvall, A., Lindvall-Östling, M. (2021). Raising awareness about gender and language among teacher-training students: A cross-cultural approach. Open Linguistics, 7(1), 666-684. https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2020-0181

Eagly, A. H. (1987). Sex differences in social behavior: A social-role interpretation. Erlbaum.

Eagly, A. H. & Steffen, V. J. (1984). Gender stereotypes stem from the distribution of women and men into social roles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46(4), 735-754. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.46.4.735

Etaugh, C. A. & Bridges, J. S. (2010). Women’s lives: A psychological exploration (2nd ed). Allyn & Bacon.

Equal Opportunities Commission. Home - Equal Opportunities Commission. (2023). https://www.eoc.org.hk/en

Evans, L., & Davies, K. (2000). No sissy boys here: A content analysis of the representation of masculinity in elementary school reading textbooks. Sex Roles, 42(3 4), 255-270. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007043323906

Feng, W. D. (2019). Infusing moral education into English language teaching: An ontogenetic analysis of social values in EFL textbooks in Hong Kong. Discourse (Abingdon, England), 40(4), 458-473. https://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2017.1356806

Ferguson, C. (2004). Sexist language persists in the EFL classroom. English Teaching Forum, 42(1), 36-41.

Gender Equality Bureau. (2023). Overview of the basic policy on gender equality and empowerment of women 2023. https://www.gender.go.jp/english_contents/pdf/230713.pdf

Gender Equality Bureau. (2023). Life and Society: Realization of a Gender-Equal Society. https://www.cao.go.jp/en/pmf/pmf_9.pdf

Gendered Japan. (2017, January 31). Diversity in New Horizon 2016. https://genderedjapan.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/diversity-in-the-new-horizon-japanese-english-textbook-series-2016/

Gupta, A. F., & Yin, A. L. S. (1990). Gender representation in English language textbooks used in the Singapore primary schools. Language and Education, 4(1), 29-50. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500789009541271

Hartman, P. L., & Judd, E. L. (1978). Sexism and TESOL Materials. TESOL Quarterly, 12(4), 383-393. https://doi.org/10.2307/3586137

Healy, D. (2009). The representation of women and men in a modern EFL textbook: Are popular textbooks gender biased? Memoirs of the Osaka Institute of Technology, Series B, 54(2), 91-100.

Hellinger, M. (1980). ‘For men must work, and women must weep’: Sexism in English Language textbooks used in German schools. Women’s Studies International Quarterly, 3, 267-275. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0148-0685(80)92323-4

Jones, M. A., Kitetu, C., & Sunderland, J. (1997). Discourse roles, gender and language textbook dialogues: Who learns what from John and Sally? Gender and Education, 9(4), 469-490. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540259721204

Kereszty, O. (2009). Gender in textbooks. Practice and Theory in Systems of Education, 4(2), 1-7.

Kizilaslan, I. (2010). Student teachers’ perceptions of gendered texts in English language textbooks. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2(2), 3528-3531. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.03.546

Kobia, J. M. (2009). Femininity and masculinity in English primary school textbooks in Kenya. The International Journal of Language Society and Culture, 28, 57-71. https://aaref.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/28-6.pdf

Law, K. W. K., & Chan, A. H. N. (2004). Gender Role Stereotyping in Hong Kong’s Primary School Chinese Language Subject Textbooks. Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, 10(1), 49-69. https://doi.org/10.1080/12259276.2004.11665965

Lee, J. F. K. (2019). In the pursuit of a gender-equal society: Do Japanese EFL textbooks play a role? Journal of Gender Studies, 28(2), 204-217. https://doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2018.1423956

Lee, J. F. K. (2021). Gender Portrayal in a Popular Hong Kong Reading Programme for Children: Are There Equalities? Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 35(4), 567-583. https://doi.org/10.1080/02568543.2020.1784323

Lee, J. F. K., & Collins, P. (2008). Gender voices in Hong Kong English textbooks – Some past and current practices. Sex Roles, 59(1-2), 127-137. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-008-9414-6

Lee, J. F. K., & Mahmoudi-Gahrouei, V. (2020). Gender representation in instructional materials: A study of Iranian English language textbooks and teachers’ voices. Sexuality & Culture, 24(4), 1107-1127. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-020-09747-z

Lee, J. F. K. (2014). A hidden curriculum in Japanese EFL textbooks: Gender representation. Linguistics and Education, 27, 39-53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.linged.2014.07.002

Lee, J. F. K. (2014). Gender representation in Hong Kong primary school ELT textbooks - a comparative study. Gender and Education, 26(4), 356-376. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540253.2014.916400

Lee, J. F. K. (2018). Gender representation in Japanese EFL textbooks - a corpus study. Gender and Education, 30(3), 379-395. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540253.2016.1214690

Lee, J. F. K., & Collins, P. (2010). Construction of gender: A comparison of Australian and Hong Kong English language textbooks. Journal of Gender Studies, 19(2), 121-137. https://doi.org/10.1080/09589231003695856

Levine, D. & O’Sullivan, M. (2010). Gender and images in the EFL textbook Talk a Lot, Starter Book, Second Edition. The Journal and Proceedings of GALE, 3, 33-42.

Litosseliti, L. (2006). Gender and language: Theory and practice. Hodder Arnold.

Lumadi, M. W., & Shongwe, S.S. (2010). The need for training gender-sensitive teachers: addressing education challenges for gender sensitive national development. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 3(3), 41-50. https://doi.org/10.19030/cier.v3i3.185

Manstead, A. S. R. & Hewstone, M. (Eds.) (1995). The Blackwell encyclopedia of social psychology. Blackwell.

Matsuda, A. (2002). Representation of users and uses of English in beginning Japanese EFL textbooks. JALT Journal, 24(2), 182-200. https://doi.org/10.37546/JALTJJ24.2-5

McEnery, T., Xiao, R., & Tono, Y. (2006). Corpus-based language studies: An advanced resource book. Routledge.

Mukundan, J. & Nimehchisalem, V. (2008). Gender representation in Malaysian secondary school English language textbooks. Indonesian Journal of English Language Teaching, 4(2), 155-173. https://doi.org/10.25170/ijelt.v4i2.149

Otlowski, M. (2003). Ethnic diversity and gender bias in EFL textbooks. Asian EFL Journal, 5(2), 1-15. http://www.asian-efl-journal.com/june_03_mo.pdf

Pihlaja, S. (2008). “Would you like to dance with me, Miwa?”: Gender roles and the EFL text. The School House, 16(1), 2-9.

Prieler, M., & Centeno, D. (2013). Gender representation in Philippine television advertisements. Sex Roles, 69(5-6), 276-288. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-013-0301-4

Sakita, T. I. (1995). Sexism in Japanese English Education: A Survey of EFL Texts. Women and Language, 13(2), 5.

Selvi, A. F., & Kocaman, C. (2021). (Mis-/Under-) Representations of gender and sexuality in locally-produced ELT materials. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 20(2), 118-133. https://doi.org/10.1080/15348458.2020.1726757

Sunderland, J. (1994). Exploring gender: Questions and implications for English language education (Prentice-Hall international English language teaching). Prentice Hall.

Sunderland, J. (2006). Language and gender: An advanced resource book. Routledge.

Talbot, M. M. (1998). Language and gender: An introduction. Polity Press.

The Curriculum Development Council. (2017). English Language Education Key Learning Area Curriculum Guide (Primary 1 - Secondary 6). Education Bureau. https://www.edb.gov.hk/attachment/en/curriculum-development/renewal/ELE/ELE_KLACG_P1-S6_Eng_2017.pdf

The Curriculum Development Council. (2018). Supplement English Language Education Key Learning Area Curriculum Guide (Secondary 1 - Secondary 3). Education Bureau. https://www.edb.gov.hk/attachment/en/curriculum-development/kla/eng-edu/Curriculum%20Document/ELE%20JS%20Supplement%202018.pdf

Thomson, C. K., & Otsuji, E. (2003). Evaluation of business Japanese textbooks: Issues of gender. Japanese Studies, 23(2), 185-203. https://doi.org/10.1080/1037139032000129711

Turner, R. M. (1990). Gender-Related Considerations for Developing the Text of Art Instructional Materials. Studies in Art Education, 32(1), 55-64. https://doi.org/10.2307/1320400

Wang, L. (2022). Exploring the history and challenge of government-authorized English textbooks in Japan and Mainland China. Espacio, Tiempo Y Educación, 9(1), 236-255. http://dx.doi.org/10.14516/ete.400

Witt, S. D. (2001). The influence of school texts on children’s gender role socialization. Curriculum and Teaching, 16(1), 25-43. https://doi.org/10.7459/ct/16.1.03

World Economic Forum. (2021). Global Gender Gap Report 2021. https://www.weforum.org/reports/global-gender-gap-report-2021/

Yang, C. C. R., & Yan, T. L. (2020). An analysis of gender representation in territory-wide system assessment English language papers for primary school students in Hong Kong. Sexuality & Culture, 24(4), 1128-1149. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-020-09754-0

Yang, C. C. R.. (2011). Gender representation in a Hong Kong primary English textbook series: The relationship between language planning and social policy. Current Issues in Language Planning, 12(1), 77-88. https://doi.org/10.1080/14664208.2011.541390

Yang, C. C. R. (2014). Gender representation in Hong Kong primary English language textbooks: a study of two widely-used textbook series. Lancaster University.

Yang, C. C. R. (2016). Are males and females still portrayed stereotypically? Visual analyses of gender in two Hong Kong primary English Language textbook series. Gender and Education, 28(5), 674-692. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540253.2015.1103839

Yule, G. (2006). The study of language (3rd ed). Cambridge University Press.

Yuasa, K. (2010). English Textbooks in Japan and Korea. Journal of Pan-Pacific Association of Applied Linguistics, 14(1), 147-158. https://kiss-kstudy-com.ezproxyprd.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/Detail/Ar?key=3257518

Lee & Yim (2023)






Original Research

How to Cite

Yim, D., & Lee, R. (2023). A comparative study of gender representation in junior high school EFL textbooks of Hong Kong and Japan. Journal of Language Teaching, 3(10), 21-39. https://doi.org/10.54475/jlt.2023.027

Similar Articles

1-10 of 42

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.