This week, Dr Kevin McGrath from Macquarie University’s Department of Educational Studies, published a treatise on the issues and challenges related to hiring more male primary teachers.
His article, titled ‘We need to rethink recruitment for men in primary schools’ and published in The Conversation, summarises the status quo (just 19 per cent of full-time primary educators are male), and goes on to make a case for the kind of positive discrimination that is becoming apparent in other sectors and industries.
Dr McGrath uses two examples of Australian universities advertising for women-only positions within STEM disciplines, which historically have very low rates of female participation.
While these job advertisements have drawn some criticism, it seems they are lawful. As the education academic states:
‘It appears that these universities are using the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act – state legislation – to bypass national sex discrimination legislation and target employment opportunities to women,’ he writes, while admitting this approach is unlikely to be taken up by schools anytime soon. (The reason he gives, interestingly, is that schools should continue to hire based on merit, rather than gender.)
The reasons Dr McGrath provides for why more men should be encouraged to become teachers hinges upon research that he describes as ‘social, not academic’, as well as an appeal to the principles of diversity in society being reflected in the workplace.
‘Education is not “women’s work”, but it sure seems that way if you’re seven years old,’ Dr McGrath writes.
The article concludes with three suggestions for improving male participation in primary schools, which are: setting realistic goals, providing worthwhile incentives and improving the status of the profession overall.
Bronwyn Johnstone, Principal of Capalaba State College in Queensland, told Education Matters that the article reinforces the fact that schools must reflect broader society, and that a healthy balance of genders of teachers has been shown to benefit students.
Ultimately, Ms. Johnstone says, a balanced workforce should not be prioritised above the quality of teachers overall.
“I believe that a balanced work force is highly desirable however, what is most important is that each class has an excellent teacher,” she said. “A teacher who cares about all children in the class and believes every child can learn.”
Overall, Dr McGrath’s thesis is initially compelling, yet with so much work yet to be done in promoting gender equality for female participation in traditionally male-dominated job categories, it’s hard to see whether there exists much appetite for also promoting the opposite.
What do you think about this topic? Education Matters would like to invite primary teachers and principles to have their say on the matter. Email the Editor at email@example.com.