Recently the ABC published a news article highlighting the current shortage of male teachers in primary schools. With particular focus on South Australia, the article quoted recent figures from the University of South Australia, indicating that only 17 percent of primary teachers are male, while only four percent make up those studying early childhood education.
It quoted Martyn Mills-Bayne, a lecturer in early childhood education, who stated that "what can happen in studying and teaching is that it can become a very isolating experience for men." Seemingly then, these low numbers could create a spiralling effect in discouraging males from becoming teachers.
The article suggested two reasons for the trends, namely that of "society's view of working with small children being 'women's work' ", together with the fact that many men fear being accused of impropriety in working with young children. Late last year the Sydney Morning Herald published a similar story, quoting another academic, Professor Stephen Dinham, of the University of Melbourne, whose take of the drop in male teachers is the "combined effect of a drop in relative pay rates and a lack of good career structure." (The great man shortage hits Australian classrooms, smh, 8 November 2015)
Whatever the reasons, this is an important trend and begs a number of questions. Perhaps some of the biggest questions arise out of our cultural perceptions of teaching, especially of small children. While I am no expert in the field of education, it seems to me that a Christian view of teaching arises from a belief that our children, being image-bearers of God, are as important as adults and therefore any endeavour to nurture, protect, educate and raise our children is of paramount, not secondary importance.
If that is so, then surely the work of teaching young aged children should not be affected by the gender biases that seem to be behind these trends. What is a thoughtful Christian response to these matters?