Do boys need more male teachers?

Nick Murray - Sooke News Mirror

Children may have a hard time finding a male role model to look up to in the classroom.

Statistics show women greatly outnumber men as educators, a trend that is seen in classrooms across Greater Victoria.

Dave Eberwein, superintendent of the Saanich School District, recognises that students need to be able to relate to their teachers but does not think biological sex is much of a factor. “The most important thing is having at least one adult a child can relate to, that they trust and that believes in them.”

Regarding gender, he says, “our goal is to hire the best, male or female, we are moving away from binary identity.”

In 2011, Statistics Canada published some surprising numbers regarding male and female teachers. Only 41 per cent of high school teachers, 16 per cent of all elementary teachers and three per cent of early childhood educators were men. That’s a 20 per cent average and the gap appears to be growing.

A 2016 marking analysis found there was a marking bias against boys and research in the UK has found that young men without male role models are more likely to suffer from depression and leave school without qualifications.

Thomas Dee, from Stanford University, also published a study suggesting that boys do better in classes taught by men.

The number of male teachers is low in Canadian schools, but especially so in B.C.

One Greater Victoria school’s staff list registers only one male teacher out of 22.

The British Columbia Teachers Federation says the only reliable figures available are from the Teachers Pension Plan, which states that almost 80 per cent of teachers in B.C. are women. Presently, the Pension Plan is the only way to assess this data, as figures are not collated by policymakers or school districts.

Experts believe the picture is similar across Canada.

Glen Hansman, president of the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) says that it is “important all students have a diversity of teachers.” He states that the BCTF’s highest priority has been to increase the number of Aboriginal teachers in school, and acknowledges, “there has been less of a conversation about gender bias in schools.”

According to Hansman, fewer men are joining the profession, and he predicts that 90 per cent of all teachers will be women in the next few years. The latest statistics regarding teaching graduates in B.C. supports his view, as 90 per cent of new teaching graduates are women.

While some educational experts have concerns, Hansman thinks it is important to recognise that the school system is full of talented female teachers and he does not believe that boys are necessarily being “short-changed.”

There are many factors why men are put off becoming teachers. The perceived low status of the job, low pay and some residual prejudice against men being around children are cited as central reasons.

Hansman also believes that successive governments have shown a hostile attitude towards public servants in general, and teachers in particular, including past decisions that have been ruled as unconstitutional.

“Governments often take advantage of teachers and those in the ‘caring professions’ and B.C. education is chronically under-funded,” he says, adding male high-school students faced with this climate ask themselves, “Why do it?”

Feb. 7, 2019

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