Male teach­ers tipped to van­ish from our pri­mary class­rooms

The Australian - - THE NATION - GREG BROWN

The num­ber of male teach­ers is in rapid de­cline and ex­perts warn they will dis­ap­pear from pri­mary schools un­less there is gov­ern­ment ac­tion to en­cour­age them back into the pro­fes­sion.

Re­search from Mac­quarie Univer­sity shows male teach­ers dropped from 28.5 per cent of pri­mary school teach­ers in 1977 to just 18 per cent today.

They are also de­clin­ing in sec­ondary schools, with 54 per cent of teach­ing staff male in 1977 com­pared with about 40 per cent today.

Lead au­thor of the re­search Kevin McGrath has pre­dicted there will be no male teach­ers in pri­mary schools by 2067, while male sec­ondary teach­ers will drop by a fur­ther 5 per cent in the next decade. Low pay and eas­ier en­try into teach­ing de­grees has de­val­ued the pro­fes­sion and had an im­pact on the num­ber of males at­tracted to the sec­tor.

But Dr McGrath said a big­ger prob­lem was the per­cep­tion it was not a mas­cu­line pro­fes­sion.

“The main peo­ple who en­rol in teach­ing cour­ses are young women who have just fin­ished high school,” he said. “Men are more likely to try and pur­sue the things that fit those mas­cu­line traits and teach­ing is seen as women’s work. The more that con­tin­ues, the fewer men there are and the fewer men we see to chal­lenge those per­cep­tions.”

Dr McGrath called for a largescale ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns to en­cour­age men into teach­ing and help change the per­cep­tion it was a pro­fes­sion for women.

He said there should also be more schol­ar­ships for men to do teach­ing cour­ses, like there are for women in male-dom­i­nated in­dus­tries.

Pri­mary teacher An­thony Fen­nell is one of four male teach­ers out of 20 at Ep­ping North Pub­lic School in Syd­ney’s north­west.

Mr Fen­nell, 30, said there was a more even dis­tri­bu­tion of men and women study­ing teach­ing at univer­sity but men tended to drop off when it came to get­ting a job.

“Male teach­ers aren’t get­ting the same sort of favourable treat­ment when it comes to ca­sual po­si­tions. That’s how you trans­late a univer­sity grad­u­a­tion into a full-time gig, you take up some ca­sual roles,” Mr Fen­nell said.

He added some men were con­cerned about the per­cep­tion of child-sex abuse among male teach­ers. “Ob­vi­ously it is a mis­con­cep­tion, but there is def­i­nitely that per­cep­tion that if you are a man work­ing with kids there must be some­thing un­to­ward go­ing on there,” he said.

Fed­eral Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Si­mon Birm­ing­ham said there was “no sil­ver bul­let” to ad­dress the de­cline of male teach­ers.

“States and ter­ri­to­ries and non-gov­ern­ment schools are re­spon­si­ble for which teach­ers work in schools, but for our part, the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment is work­ing to raise the per­cep­tions of teach­ers to make it a more at­trac­tive long-term ca­reer for every­one,” Sen­a­tor Birm­ing­ham said.

He said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment had im­proved the qual­ity of teach­ing cour­ses and forced teach­ers to have bet­ter lit­er­acy in an ef­fort to raise the pro­file of the pro­fes­sion.

JAMES CROUCHER

An­thony Fen­nell teaches at Syd­ney’s Ep­ping North pri­mary

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