The importance of male teachers in the classroom
According to research in 2018, male educators make up just two percent of the workforce in Australian early education, compared to 18 percent in primary schools and around 40 percent in high schools.
The rate of decline in new male teachers is alarming, with the Macquarie University noting that male teachers may be entirely absent from government schools by 2054 and they will be ‘extinct’ in Australia by 2067.
Social misconception suggests that the early years for young children is ‘women’s work, not suitable for men, because men should be ‘manly’, sporty and assertive, and that they should do manly jobs. Driving this misconception may be the fact that 98 of 100 educators in early learning are women, so children may learn that women are the educators and kind, affectionate and loving.
However, many boys do have a natural caring and affectionate nature, but if they do not see men being kind, loving or concerned about education at this early stage it is hard for them to connect this. This can be amplified if there is no role model in his life outside of school that demonstrates this positive attachment.
One worrying reason why males may not take up teaching as a profession is the fear of being accused of child sexual abuse or some impropriety. This may be a valid concern. One South Australian teacher endured a stressful two-year investigation involving allegations of misconduct before being ordered back to teaching. Even though the allegations were not proven, the effect on the teacher was astronomical—sick leave, stress leave and the possibility of leaving a loved profession after 30 years. Needless to say, the teacher has cautioned young males about joining the profession.
Having more male teachers is unlikely to directly improve boys’ results, McGrath et al say, “as research indicates that teacher gender has no direct effect on students’ academic outcomes.” Instead, “quality teaching and positive relations based on gender sensitivity are more important than a teacher’s own gender.”
Students need a diverse teaching experience. Teachers of both genders come with varying viewpoints and experiences they can share with students. Diverse experiences allow students to see the diversity of relationships within and outside the classroom.
Many students don’t encounter a male teacher until they reach middle or upper primary school. If more students could experience a male teacher in early childhood or lower primary it may provide strong, positive role models and father figures for students who may not have one.
McGrath et al note that “Australian girls in sixth grade expressed a need for more male teachers to understand how to interact with men outside of their families, while boys claimed that male teachers understood them better than did female teachers. Notably, both boys and girls reported that it was easier to relate to a teacher of the same gender.”
Adam Angwin is the centre director at Goodstart Early Learning in Tuggerah, New South Wales and he notes: “it is a positive for children to be exposed to both genders when at the service. It is great for them to see how females and males collaborate and communicate together without any gender stereotype issues”.
Stereotypes and role models aside, male teachers are important for all students, allowing them to observe men who are non-violent and whose interactions with women are positive.
Encountering both male and female teachers in classrooms gives students the opportunity to learn from teachers who they perceive as being similar to themselves. Diversity promotes alternate thinking, which in turn, may drive improved performance and innovative solutions.
Limited visibility of male teachers, however, further perpetuates the view that teaching is a job better suited to women. By working in roles that are typically viewed as appropriate only for women, men can help to break down the polarised differences that foster gender inequalities.
This may lead to students, and in particular, young boys, growing up with non-violent, and gender equitable versions of masculinity, enabling them to develop a new generation of caring humans and potentially increase the participation of male as teachers, for the benefit of all students.
We highly recommend reviewing the sources below for further examples and information.
The IEU strongly supports all teachers in their education facilities. If you need support with your job at any level – join the IEU. Read about the benefits here.
Do we really need male teachers? Forget those old reasons, here’s new research
Kevin F. McGrath, Deevia Bhana, Penny Van Bergen, Shaaista Moosa, 18 November 2019
Why there’s a shortage of male educators
FirstFiveYears.org.au, 10 December 2018
The importance of male teachers in the classroom
RIC Publications, 30 August 2016
The shortage of male teachers in primary schools
Educations Matters, no date.