The number of male teachers is dropping so dramatically there will be none left in Australian primary schools within 50 years unless governments take action, researchers say.
Australia’s first longitudinal study of teacher numbers has found the number of male primary school and high school teachers has fallen 10 per cent and 14 per cent respectively since 1977.
Macquarie University’s Kevin McGrath, who led the study, said part of the problem was no government in Australia had a policy to encourage men to take up teaching.
“What is alarming is that this decline has continued and shows no sign of slowing down. That tells us that there’s a national trend that actually needs to be addressed if anything is to change,” Dr McGrath said.
Male primary teachers will disappear entirely from government schools by 2054 and be “extinct” in Australia by 2067 if the decline continues at the current rate, the study found.
Dr McGrath said men were being turned off teaching because of low pay and the perception it is a feminine profession.
“Men, and young men in particular, face social pressures to conform to particular masculine ideals,” he said.
“It’s the personal trainer effect. There are a lot of men who graduate from high school who want to be a personal trainer and that makes a lot of sense because it fits within those masculine ideals.
“There’s fewer and fewer who actually see teaching as a viable career path because they’re seeing fewer and fewer men in teaching.”
Dr McGrath said governments needed to encourage men to become teachers, increase the number of permanent teaching positions, and introduce teaching scholarships for men similar to those for women in male-dominated industries.
Male teachers face sexism and child abuse claims
Primary school teacher Daniel Steele, one of only three men out of 20 teachers at St Jude’s Primary School in outer Melbourne, said he has faced sexism and even suspicions about child abuse.
Mr Steele is the only man to teach in a classroom at St Jude’s – the other two male teachers are the principal and the deputy principal.
“I remember starting my teaching career and receiving little comments from people second-guessing my role as a teacher,” Mr Steele said.
“[Comments] questioning my ability to look after my family with regards to the pay being so terrible, all the way through to, ‘Why would you want to work with young kids? That’s for women and mums to do’.
“And then you get the really terrible comments with regards to you touching kids and these really horrible descriptions.
“I’ve copped the whole breadth of it.”
Dr McGrath said studies had repeatedly found having a male teacher made no difference to a child’s academic performance, but there were important social benefits.
“Some students might prefer forming relationships with female teachers and some might prefer forming relationships with male teachers,” he said.
“For students that have risky home lives, say for example they’ve witnessed domestic violence, male teachers could actually be an important sort of reassurance.
“They can come to school and see men and women interacting in positive and non-violent ways, and also see men respond to female leadership, which reflects what happens in the real world.”