Chinese kindergartens seek more gender balance

by Liu Meng - Global Times, China

[MenTeach: The following perpetuates some stereotypes that MenTeach believes does more harm than good trying to recruit more male teachers. You'll find this same argument - that lacking male teachers causes boys to be more feminine - going back to the 1800s in different parts of the world.]

Chinese media are saying that the chronic lack of male teachers in kindergartens is creating a generation of overly feminine boys and may be encouraging the growing phenomenon of cross-dressing (Weiniang). The kindergartens say that too few male kindergarten education graduates are coming through and they have no option but to hire females.

Male scarcity
The Anhui-based Market Star Newspaper, reported recently that the Hefei Nursery Teachers Training School has only one male graduate this year, compared with 35 in 2006.

This male education graduate received offers from more than 50 kindergartens, but in the end gave up and chose a job unrelated to his major back in his hometown.

Dong Yan, principal of Beijing Century Sunshine Kindergarten, told the Global Times that the school has only two male teachers out of 44, and gave two reasons for the scarcity.

"Firstly, there is the social bias that believes a kindergarten job is too feminine for a man. Secondly, the lower income makes it harder for a male kindergarten teacher to support a future family," she said.

One kindergarten education graduate surnamed Wang in Beijing worked as an intern in a local kindergarten for two months before giving up the career.

"I don't think I was suited to making beds for children or dressing them up," he said. "And the monthly salary was just 2,000 yuan ($295), which is no use for dating girls."

Liu Zhiyi, a male teacher at a Shenyang-based kindergarten, said it was wrong that male kindergarten teachers are not highly regarded in society.

"Many people are unaware of the importance of preschool education and simply see male teachers as 'male nursery maids,'" he told the Global Times.

Masculine traits

Liu Jianqin, mother of a three-year-old boy in Shandong Province said she takes care of her son by herself as her husband is busy working.

"The books say that the character of a child is mainly formed during the early years. A child educated by a female teacher will be more friendly while one taught by a male teacher will be ambitious and brave. I hope my son could be more masculine when he grows up," she said.

Many kindergarten principals hold that both female and male teachers are needed.

Xu Min, principal of a kindergarten in Luoyang, Henan Province, said that young children imitate behavior, and if surrounded by girls, it would influence their character to be more like a girl.

"Compared with female teachers, males are better at sports and science, and tend to give children more of a chance to do things on their own, which is good for cultivating their independence, ability and confidence," she said.

Wang Ping, director with the preschool education department at Shenyang University said that parents previously proud of having a docile child now realize that confidence and bravery are more important in today's society.

"Male kindergarten teachers are indispensable in keeping the balance of children's mentality, conduct and character," Wang added.

Possible solutions
Dong said that the perception that only females could be kindergarten teachers is outdated and the public should resist stereotypes like this.

"Considering both the employment prospective and the demand from preschool education, more and more male teachers should train for and aim to work in kindergartens," said Dong.

She also said that if the government introduced more supportive policies, such as raising the income of male kindergarten teachers, those who really love the work would be attracted to the field.

August 2, 2010

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