Following World Teachers Day, the educational charity Teach First is pushing for more men to consider a career in teaching. Teaching is currently a predominantly female area with only 26% of primary and secondary teachers being male in England. This figure is only 15% when looking at primary education alone. In fact, one in four primary schools in England have no male registered teachers. This gender imbalance has often been considered one of the reasons that many boys – especially white working class boys – feeling disengaged and out of place within the education system.
There is a lot of evidence to support the idea that men do not go into education as the profession is not held in high enough esteem. The saying ‘those who can, do; those who can’t, teach’ is often thrown around, and the consistently reputed myth that teachers only join that profession for the ‘long holidays’ demeans the profession. It is interesting to note that in places such as Scandinavia where looking after children and teaching are held in high esteem there is a smaller imbalance with nearer 30% of primary school being male.
Working with children has typically been seen as a female role, linked with the domestic and the home; it is not as ‘masculine’ as other careers. Predominantly female careers are often jobs associated with cleaning and nurturing such as nursing; jobs that are simultaneously degraded. Men who adopt typically considered female traits such as looking after children, are often looked down upon. Our society critiques typically feminine traits whilst applauding typically masculine traits, and thus, men hesitate to explore traditionally feminine activities or careers.
It is impossible to ignore the fact that within higher education – which is typically held in much higher regard – the statistics of gender imbalance are completely reversed. Indeed, in 2014 it was announced in the UK there were only around 22% of all professors were female, with men making up the overwhelming majority. This is despite the rising amount of female university students. Professors and academics are no longer considered in a nurturing, caring or pastoral role; they are in positions of power and thus it becomes a ‘worthwhile’ career for men.
Some people have argued that money and term times also drive the gender imbalance, as prior to the Equal Pay Act in 1961 there were a greater number of male teachers than female. As the school holidays increased and the days were shortened, teaching became viewed as a career in which women could be flexible and easily look after their own children. The profession progressed to be seen as a less worthwhile career and became dominated by women.
More recently, there has been fear that men are also not considering careers in teaching at a younger level because of the stigma that associates male teachers with paedophilia. Men being close with children is considered by many as peculiar, leading people to think ulterior motives may be involved.
It is important to emphasise teaching as a worthwhile and rewarding job and stop demeaning jobs because they are associated with typically feminine traits. By restoring the reputation of all aspects of the education system, we should slowly see the equalisation of gender imbalances.
Image credit: jarmoluk