Teaching and the gender imbalance:
do we need more MATES；?
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Teaching and the gender imbalance:
do we need more MATES；?
Central Queensland University
Why do we need more male teachers? 4
Do students benefit from having male teachers? 6
The benefits of gender balance 8
Attributes of the male teacher 10
Effects of reduced male teacher contact 13
The MATES project 15
How does MATES motivate teachers to engage with 18
Findings Summary 22
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Teaching and the gender imbalance: do we need more MATES?
The diminishing presence of males within the teaching profession (Education Queensland, 2002a) is attracting significant social and political commentary. Brendan Nelson (2003b) Federal Minister of Education, Science and Training claims “There
are some 250 schools in NSW alone which have been reported as not having a single male teacher”.
In response to the decline, authorities have proposed a number of remedial responses including the formation of male teacher strategies, male only pre-service teacher training scholarships, wage rises and mentoring programs.
Education Queensland (2002b) has set a bold and ambitious 35% target for male teacher employment by January 2006. This is a significant increase on the 27.3% current proportion of men teaching within Queensland‟s public schools.
; explores issues relating to gender imbalance within the teaching profession
; outlines a local research project which sought to identify educators views on
whether any valued teaching qualities were more likely to be demonstrated by
; profiles a trial project MATES (Male Teacher Support) which aims to redress
the decline in male teacher numbers.
The MATES project was developed to support Education Queensland (EQ) in attaining its workforce diversity goals by reducing the attrition of male pre-service teachers, promoting the teaching profession to men and supporting male in-service teachers. MATES strategies are intentionally teacher centred and focussed. Teachers play a powerful role in promoting or denigrating the profession to prospective educators. MATES prompts teachers to mentor pre-service colleagues, advocate their profession to senior schoolboys and reflect on their own teaching strategies. The project was trialed in the Bundaberg district in 2003 with support from Central Queensland University, EQ and the Catholic Education Commission.
This paper addresses the question „Do we need more MATES?‟ In order to discuss this issue we need to consider:
1) Why do we need more male teachers?
2) Do students benefit from having male teachers?
3) What is the MATES project and has it succeeded in attracting and retaining
males in the teaching profession?
4) How does the MATES project motivate male teachers to engage with
The significance of quality teaching, irrespective of gender, is not in dispute, nor the focus of this paper, and will not be addressed in detail. The findings and recommendations provide guidance to State and Federal authorities and universities in formulating policy and strategies to attract and retain pre-service and in-service male teachers.
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Why do we need more male teachers?
The gender imbalance
The proportion of men within teaching ranks is declining significantly. Nelson (2003c) claims:
In 2002, the proportion of male primary teachers (within Australia) was
only 20.9%. This is a decrease of five percentage points over only a decade
and the decrease will continue...
The diminishing presence of male teachers is a global issue. NEA (2003) research indicates only nine percent of American elementary school teachers are men.
In 2002 EQ released the Male Teachers‟ Strategy (Strategic plan for the attraction, recruitment and retention of male teachers in Queensland State Schools 2002-2005). Currently males account for 27.3% of teachers within Queensland‟s public primary and secondary schools. EQ (2002b) has set a male teacher employment target of 35% by January 2006. This equates to an additional 2156 male teachers without allowing for retirement, attrition and annual growth of teacher numbers within the EQ workforce. This is based on a total EQ teacher employment of 28,000. Despite the implementation of the Male Teacher Strategy, male teacher employment within Queensland State Schools has further declined from 27.7% in Quarter 2, 2002 to 27.3% in Quarter 2, 2003 (EQ, 2003a). If this rate of decline continues, male teacher employment within EQ will fall below 25% by 2010.
The gender disparity is particularly evident within Queensland primary schools where in 2001 males represented only 22.7% of teachers. (Commonwealth of Australia, 2002, p. 155)
Male teacher employment within Queensland‟s non-public schooling is also
deminishing with the executive director of the Queensland Catholic Education Commission, Jo McCorley revealing around 77.3% (or 4105 teachers) at Catholic Schools in the Brisbane Archdiocese are women, compared with 22.7% (1205 teachers) who are men. (Queensland Catholic Education Commission, 2002)
The data depicts an increasingly bleak projection and continual decline in male teaching numbers will continue unless effective intervention strategies are promptly implemented.
Across the nation, there are only 4247 males who are training to be
primary teachers, which is 18.8 per cent of the total number of teachers in
primary training – less than one in five. (Nelson, 2003a)
Many campaigners (Biddulph, 1997, Walling, 2002) for increasing the male presence within our schools link the escalating disengagement and declining achievement of
boys with the reduced male teacher presence.
Declining Achievement of Boys
Education Queensland (1999, p17) supports inclusive practices and „the right for all students to access education that leads to learning outcomes consistent with their potential.‟ Research (Commonwealth of Australia, 2002) suggests boys are achieving
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at a significantly lower rate than girls and not meeting their potential. Rowe & Rowe (2002, p. 2) concur with the decline:
The evidence indicating that boys, on average, achieve at significantly
lower levels than girls on ALL areas of the assessed cognitive
curriculum throughout their primary and secondary schooling is not in
dispute…Indeed, there is a widening gap between the academic
performance of girls and boys in Australia.
Rowe, the research director of the Australian Council for Educational Research, warns against aligning boys‟ declining achievement with teacher gender.
…the quality of teaching and learning provision with major emphasis on
literacy and related verbal reasoning and written communication skills
are by far the most salient influences on students‟ cognitive, affective,
and behavioural outcomes of schooling – regardless of either student or
teacher gender. (Rowe & Rowe 2002, p. 1)
These views contrast those given to the Commonwealth Inquiry on Boys‟ Education
by Dr Peter West (2002, p. 5) who recommends „careful attention (be) given to roles played by fathers and other men in encouraging boys to learn.‟ Male teacher advocates highlight the benefits positive adult male role models contribute to enhancing student learning outcomes.
Fewer Positive Male Role Models
Providing students with male role models has been highlighted by educational reports and policy documents worldwide (Education Queensland, 2002a; Teacher Training Agency, 1999)
It is also evident that there is concern about the lack of male role models
in the teaching profession for young boys. Among other factors, the lack
of male role models or authority figures in schools may influence the
attitude of boys towards schooling in general. (Education Queensland
2002a, p. 1)
Mills, Martino & Lingard (2004, p. 356) argue this stance is flawed and demeaning to female teachers.
…the dominant constructions of masculinity implied within calls for
more male role models for boys potentially denigrate the work being
done in schools by female teachers, and may be harmful to girls in
schools and to gender relations in general.
Protagonists (West, 2004; Nelson, 2004) for increasing male teacher numbers highlight the need to provide students with more male role models as schools increasingly become a „no-man‟s land‟ and are becoming less able to provide this
positive influence. Federal Opposition leader Mark Latham (2004) supports this view:
Our boys are suffering from a crisis of masculinity...There are one million
single mothers in Australia with sons entering adolescence who know
better than most how boys can benefit from the steadying influence and
discipline of a male role model.
Australian families are becoming increasingly sole parent in nature. ABS (2002) figures indicate lone parent households have increased nationally from 18.8% in 1986
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to 24% in 2001. Lone-mothers were the primary carer in 87% of our nations one-parent families in 1996. (ABS. 2000). It can be argued boys are becoming more isolated and starved of positive adult male stewardship as fathers become less skilled and willing to accept the mentoring role. Dr Peter West (2002), head of the Research Group for Men and Families at University of Western Sydney, emphasises men are struggling to be better fathers but are reluctant to seek help from doctors and colleagues. Michael Carr-Gregg, leading Australian adolescent psychologist, estimates
…fathers spend an average of six minutes a day in presence of their sons
and only 14 seconds in meaningful conversation (cited in Nelson 2004)
This lends weight to the argument that schools have an increasing and significant responsibility to provide boys and girls with a positive and stable male presence which Australian society seems increasingly less likely or willing to provide.
Do Students Benefit From Having Male Teachers?
Few campaigners for increased male teacher numbers have successfully identified explicit skills or attributes male teachers bring to schools and how these might benefit both male and female students.
In 2003 the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) rejected the Catholic Education Office‟s (CEO) application for a 5 year exemption from sex discrimination laws to offer male only scholarships to prospective male pre-service teachers. The CEO (2002) submitted that in 2001 only 937 (18%) male teachers were employed (within Catholic Education) in NSW and ACT compared with 4265 (82%) women.
Supporting their proposal for male only pre-service teacher scholarships, the CEO raised a number of assumptions which the HREOC (2003) criticised as lacking elaboration and justification. These include:
; male and female teachers have different teaching styles, employ
different discipline techniques and interact with boys differently;
; there is a relationship between the gender of the teacher and the
academic achievement of the student; and
; boys suffer a disadvantage in primary schools due to the paucity of
Within the submission the CEO (2002) also emphasised:
…the presence or absence of male teachers has major implications for the
culture of schools and the education of children….for a range of reasons
including the potential impact of a more balanced teacher population on
behavioural and learning difficulties for boys and on gender stereotype
issues, strategies need to be put in place to attempt to attract more males
into the teaching profession at the primary level.
The HREOC (2003) acknowledged the disparity but highlighted the lack of evidence to support the assumption that the gender imbalance will result in adverse social or educational effects. They also expressed doubt if the proposed scholarship scheme would remedy the gender imbalance.
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Other analysts (Mills et al, 2004) suggest that teacher gender has minimal impact on the quality of schooling offered to our children and support the HREOC finding, opposing any gender-based attempt to recruit or retain teachers.
Despite this view and in response to the HREOC findings the Federal government recently introduced an amendment to the Sexual Discrimination Act 1984 (SDA).
Passage of this bill will result in the Commonwealth government offering five hundred $2000 scholarships to male pre-service teachers throughout Australia. The employment of a further 500 male teachers represents less than 25% of Queensland‟s current requirement. Education Queensland has recently announced an intention to offer similar scholarships if the sex discrimination act is amended (Courier Mail. May 5, p. 6.).
The NSW Teachers Federation claimed the proposed change to the SDA was a “short-
sighted and simplistic approach…It doesn‟t address the questions of pay, workload, or status of the profession…” (Burke, K. 2004).
Bowmaker and Smith (2004) also highlight a number of concerns relating to a scholarship-centred remedy including:
; In what way will the scholarship holders be supported to enhance the
likelihood of completing the course?
; Will scholarship holders receive preferred employment upon course
; How will the scholarships affect the relationship between scholarship
holders and other male and female pre-service teachers?
In order to validate the beliefs expressed by the CEO and HREOC, the author sought the opinions of local Bundaberg educators.
In 2004 thirty-five teachers (9 male, 26 female) drawn from two local Bundaberg primary schools, and eighteen school and district office administrators (12 male, 6 female) voluntarily participated in a survey which sought to identify educators‟ views
on whether any valued teaching qualities were more likely to be demonstrated by male teachers. Central Queensland University (Office of Research) and Bundaberg District Office (EQ) approved the conduct of the survey. Field notes and interviews supplemented the survey findings. The research findings may serve to justify the call for a more gender balanced EQ teaching workforce and the provision of a support program for male pre and in-service teachers.
Participants responded to the following questions:
; Do you believe schools would benefit from a balance of male/female teachers?
(EQ target Male 35% Female 65%)
; Do you believe male teachers bring special skills/attributes to the classroom
; Would students experience adverse social or educational effects if male
teaching numbers continue to decline?
The findings of this survey suggest a link does exist between the demonstration of some identified positive teaching attributes and teacher gender.
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The benefits of gender balance
Table 1: Do schools benefit from a balance of male/female teachers?
Do you believe schools would benefit from a balance of male/female teachers?
(Education Queensland target Male 35% Female 65%)
Respondent Yes No Abstain
Teachers 97% 3%
Respondents cited many examples of how a gender balanced workforce benefits a school community. In reviewing the responses the following themes emerged:
; Enhanced relationships
; Improved diversity
; Reduced behaviour management issues
The following section will address each of these themes.
The relationships between teachers, students and parents have a crucial bearing on student learning (Commonwealth of Australia. 2002, p. 20) Participants highlighted that staff morale and relationships are enhanced by a gender balanced teaching workforce.
„Women (generally) tend to get very personal and more emotional which can impact on school moral if not balanced with male’s more easy going nature‟ Joan: Principal
„From a staff point of view a balance is healthy for interaction amongst staff members’ Wendy: teacher
„As a staff, a near balance of male/female teachers makes for a ‘happier’ staff’
Respondents also stated an increased male presence helps to foster effective teaching teams which impacts positively on student learning.
„There are many male teachers that I know that I would simply ‘enjoy’ teaching with. If you’re both working well and enjoying teaching together then half the battle is won to get the children to enjoy learning and coming to school. They (males) can provide a sense of comfort and security by their presence to both the children and teaching staff.‟ Anna: teacher
Participants acknowledged that a balanced male presence within teaching teams and networks not only enhances team harmony but also increases the likelihood of male issues being projected and addressed.
„The very fact that they are male and may be better equipped to deal with, advise and support specific issues of male students‟ Julia: Teacher
Males respond positively to advise from other males (West, 2001). Respondents claim an increased male teaching presence helps to motivate fathers to increase their involvement in their child‟s learning.
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„This (gender balance) will result in improved interactions with BOTH parents. Some fathers are more comfortable interacting with male teachers‟ Jenny: Principal
Escalating conflict between female teachers and male students may be an outcome when boys fail to develop effective communication skills with female teachers. Respondents indicated that boys, especially those from single female parent families may rarely witness, model or develop the skills of respectful conversations between males and females. A declining male teacher presence may exacerbate this situation. „Students need to see the interactions of adult men and women in a social and work context’ Ross: Principal
„In the case of team teaching (a successful partnership), the positive interaction between the male and female teachers provides another positive role model’ Rebecca:
Education Queensland (1999) encourages student contact with a diverse teaching workforce to help children develop cultural tolerance and challenge past or commonly held stereotypes.
„Children benefit from positive role models and mentors of all kinds (males, females, academic, sporting, artistic, indigenous, etc). With a decline in numbers of male teachers, the breadth of these examples is diminishing significantly.‟ Alison: teacher
Participants also highlight that:
„In primary schools male teachers are often only encountered in admin or P.E. and this gives many stereotypical views of males in education’ Julie: teacher
„Male students may come to see education as girls domain’ Vikki: Principal
Teachers bring a range of experiences and skills to their classrooms. Participants highlighted how students benefit from contact with both male and female teachers‟ backgrounds and interests and their ability to relate classroom theory to relevant real world practice and inquiry.
„Having a balance of male and female teachers is as important to having a range of teachers with various skills. Matching children’s learning needs with appropriate teaching learning styles is an imperative and having a balance of males and females offers more diversity to school to match teachers and student needs’ Bob: principal
„Male and female teachers bring different styles/strengths to the teaching role. A gender balance ensures a larger variety of expertise eg sport/arts/science/technology‟
Respondents acknowledged the heterogeneous nature of our student body and that a positive relationship between student and teacher is often determined by the ability and willingness of the teacher to „connect‟ with each individual student in their class.
Male teachers are more likely to connect with male students, possibly due to common interests, and hence motivate them to engage with learning tasks (West, 2004).
‘Males don’t necessarily make better teachers but they do have a different way of
connecting with children. This can often be advantageous when negotiating with problem students. Shared interests, and in some cases, similar experiences create a degree of empathy between male teachers and students- especially males, which can only enhance the teaching-learning environment and process.‟ Jack: Teacher
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Fewer behaviour management issues
Boys represent 80 percent of students in school disciplinary programs (DEST 2003). Male teachers‟ capacity to develop empathy with disruptive male students has been
highlighted by many respondents. This rapport may be instrumental in reducing the instances of severe misbehaviour, suspension and truancy.
„Males bring different perspectives to male issues which could help reduce confrontation’
„Particularly in the older grades, there seems to be an increasing lack of respect for women amongst boys. Not discrediting females – as many are great teachers of upper
classes (yr 6/7), however males often have more impact behaviourally….Good male
teachers can be a positive influence on boys in the attitudes and values they display’
„With female dominated classrooms boys issues can be suppressed. Without the opportunity to see male perspectives or anticipate male problems, female teachers will suffer greater confrontation and aggression from adolescent boys in particular‟
Male teachers are more likely to be called upon to assist with manual or labour intensive tasks. Duties such as furniture moving, sport carnival set-up, pest eradication etc are commonly viewed as a male domain within school life. A declining male population places more labour intensive burden on the few remaining male teachers.
„Males’ physical strength and ‘fixing’ ability is often called upon‟ Sarah: Principal
Local educators support the case for a gender balanced workforce. Benefits include enhanced relationships with colleagues, parents and students; expanded workforce diversity; and fewer behaviour management issues. Teachers identified a number of attributes that male teacher exhibit which assist in establishing these benefits.
Attributes of the male teacher
Table 2: Do male teachers demonstrate special attributes?
Do you believe male teachers bring special skills/attributes to the classroom
Respondent Yes No Abstain
Administrators 83% 17%
Teachers 74% 17% 9%
Most respondents supported the above statement and identified skills male teachers project which enhance student learning and school efficiency. Some respondents disagreed and stated that both genders demonstrate special (or different) skills and that these should not be regarded as gender centred.
„Not special, just different ways of seeing, knowing, and doing, working with children and learners‟ Roslyn: principal
„The skills male teachers bring are no more special then the skills/attributes that females bring. The point is that these attributes are missing due to the lack of male teachers‟ Steve: deputy principal
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