Male elementary school teachers in extinction. The gender gap and the feminisation of elementary schools

Male elementary school teachers in extinction. The gender gap and the feminisation of elementary schools

There is a huge discussion and much research is being done about gender discrimination and stereotyping. One misunderstanding is that only women have been impacted by gender stereotypes and discrimination. However, it should be given attention to the fact that men have also been impacted in some occasions. This is particularly profound in careers related to education (e.g., teachers) and health services. In this article I will express my concerns about education field, as I, myself, am a primary school teacher and experience this inequality in my career.

I remember myself discussing with my parents about their childhood. Surprisingly, they remember most of their elementary school years, and of course their teachers. Among other things, what captured my attention was that most of their teachers were males; and as they described to me, this was common in Greece. Indeed, the educational reality of 20th century differs substantially from the one of 21st century. It is that when some years ago teaching used to be a masculine profession, it has steadily become a feminine one. To my knowledge, the reasons why this has happened in Greece and other countries worldwide and almost simultaneously are not very well known. Plus, this has not been discussed, at least to the degree it should have been, during my academic years and by the media in Greece.

A report published by Eurostat in 2016, reveals that male primary teachers are soundly underrepresented in schools in EU countries, as women were accounting averagely for 85% in 2014. It should be also mentioned that there is not an equal distribution of the ages of the teachers in our schools. In average, only 11% of the primary school teachers are aged below 30 in the EU, while at the same time 32% are aged above 50.

A closer look will reveal the actual gender discrepancies within the countries. For example, the countries where women are most over-represented in primary education are Lithuania, Hungary, and Slovenia (with 97% of the primary teachers being females). On the other hand, the countries with a lesser gender gap in primary education teaching staff are Denmark (where female primary school teachers represent the 69% of the teaching workforce), Greece (females are the 70% of the teaching workforce), and Luxembourg (females are the 75% of the teaching workforce). In other words, the best situation in the EU at the moment is that male primary school teachers represent the 31% of the teaching staff in a country. But is that truly acceptable?

A similar situation is described in countries beyond the EU as well. For example, Patrick (2009) highlights that male elementary school teaches represent a minority in USA. In more details, in 1996 male teachers accounted for less than 15% and in 2004 they were less than 9% (National Education Association, 2004; Snyder & Hoffman, & Geddes, 1996). Also, an article published by the daily telegraph in Australia (Roberts, 2017) reports that there are predictions that male teaches will be extinct from primary schools in 50 years. The article also mentions that in 1977 male teachers represented 28.5% of primary school teachers; since 2017 this percentage has dropped to 18% (see also Theobald, 1996).

Most publications, describe the situation as a “feminisation” of schools since the beginning of 21st century (e.g., Deliyanni-Kouimtzi, 2008). A report by the EU mentions that in all EU member states there is a tendency for men to follow specific careers such as engineering and technology, in opposition to women who tend to follow careers such as teaching and care work (EU, 2018). Similarly, the EU report states that the chances of finding a job are much higher when individuals pursue careers that match the gender stereotypes. For example, it is easier for a woman to find a job in teaching, than it is for a man. Similarly, it is easier for a man to find a job in engineering than a woman.

A study that has been conducted by Cushman (2005), revealed that four specific factors inhibit men from following a teaching career. They are: (a) experiences and attitudes related to status, (b) salary, (c) working in a predominantly female environment, and (d) the physical contact with children. All these factors, not only they influence a man’s decision to follow a career in education, but they also affect a man’s job satisfaction and performance when opting for a teaching career.

All things considered, why is it so important to have male primary school teachers after all?

  1. Students need positive role models and male teachers are need especially for children whose fathers are absent in the family
  2. The school needs to reflect society as a gender balanced one
  3. To make clear to elementary students that learning is an acceptable masculine accomplishment
  4. To demonstrate to elementary students that teaching is also a masculine career and that men can work together with women as equals (Cushman, 2006)

References

Cushman, P. (2005). Let’s hear it from the males: Issues facing male primary school teachers. Teaching and teacher education21(3), 227-240.
Cushman, P. (2006). It’s just not a real bloke’s job: Male teachers in the primary school. Asia‐Pacific Journal of Teacher Education33(3), 321-338.
Deliyanni-Kouimtzi (2008). Educators and Gender. Athens: Research Centre for Gender Equality.
European Union (2018). 2018 Report on equality between women and men in the EU.
Eurostat (2016). Women teachers largely over-represented in primary education in the EU.
Louise Roberts (2017). The daily telegraphs: Anti-men critics are driving male teachers to extinction.
Snyder, T., Hoffman, C. M., & Geddes, C. M. (1996). National center for educational statistics: Digest of educational statistics. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Office of Educational and Improvement.
Theobald (1996). Knowing women: Origins of Women’s Education in Nineteenth-Century Australia. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.

Eleftherios Baltzidis

Eleftherios Baltzidis

Eleftherios Baltzidis has graduated from Democritus University of Thrace in Greece holding a B.Ed. in Education and from the University of Kent in U.K. holding a M.Sc. in Developmental Psychology. The last years has worked in humanitarian projects in Greece supporting asylum seekers stranded in the Greek islands.
Eleftherios Baltzidis

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