The Absence of Male Teachers in Public Schools

I always wanted to teach at a public school. I liked the idea of trying to help students from low-income families.

During my University training I worked at one such school. I witnessed some very heartbreaking stories. One child had just lost her father (he was shot during a botched drug deal), whilst another was forced to live with her grandparents while her parents underwent drug rehabilitation. While I realise none of this is new, it was extremely fulfilling for me to provide good humour and a helping hand to those that have had to endure a great deal of hardships.

But there was one problem with this dream of mine – nobody would give me a job!

I applied for 30 Public School positions over the summer and none of these possibilities turned into a job offer. Nobody in the State system was prepared to take me on. Sitting in the job interview, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I was leapfrogged because of my gender. I know it seems rich for a male to cry sexism, but the selection panel was nearly always all female and on walking around schools, I noticed that nearly all the teachers were female. In the name of a close-knit staff dynamic, it wouldn’t have been such an easy proposition to disturb the status quo and invite a male into the staff room inner sanctum.

Instead, I took up a Private school position (for a lot less pay).

That’s why I am not surprised to read that male teachers are more likely to be working in the Private school system:

AUSTRALIA’S public schools are in the grip of a man drought.

But it’s raining men in the non-government sector, where the number of male teachers has grown 25 per cent since 2001.

At the same time, the number of male teachers has dropped 2 per cent at the nation’s public schools, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal.

Schools have struggled to attract male teachers to the female-dominated profession.

Teachers can earn more money in the non-government sector but there can also be more demands outside school hours, such as Saturday sport.

The New South Wales Department of Education and Communities said the national trend was reflected at the state’s schools but they also had a very low resignation rate.

Last year there were 15,274 male teachers at public schools, representing about 27 per cent of teaching staff.

In 2001, male teachers made up about 31 per cent. There were 9734 male teachers in the non-government sector – about 30 per cent of the teaching workforce. In 2001, male teachers represented 23 per cent.

A department spokesman said strategies were in place to recruit more male teachers but quality was more important than gender.

I agree that quality is more important than gender. However, I’m not sure how well we measure quality teachers in the first place.

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One Response to “The Absence of Male Teachers in Public Schools”

  1. John Tapscott Says:

    I am not surprised.

    It has nothing to do with numbers and everything to do with power and the kind of people we have exercising power.

    In the 1970’s I stood for election as Organiser in the New South Wales Teachers Federation (I was not elected). At that time I was deeply involved in the union and supported most of its issues. The one issue I could not come to terms with was “affirmative action”. This was the idea that in order to redress gender imbalance it was not enough to remove barriers and provide a level playing field for all players but that there had to be a period where (in this case) women were given an advantage over men. Consequently some promotions positions were targeted for women only to apply. I remember a Science head teacher who had qualified, by inspection, to become a deputy principal. He was waiting until he had sufficient seniority to be entitled to this position in his current school. When that time came, and the position became vacant, under the old rules, his appointment was guaranteed. But the rules had changed and the position was targeted for a woman. The woman applicant with the highest seniority was duly appointed. When she realised how her colleague had been cheated in this way she tried to get out of the appointment but was told that the job would then go to the next female applicant on the seniority list.

    In time the number of females in promotions positions increased, while the number of males, naturally, decreased. With the coming of, so called, “merit” selection, and certainly by 2001, female numbers, especially in primary schools, surpassed those of men. It is not surprising that this “ascendancy” is reflected in selection panels and consequently in the number patterns of those employed.

    As all this was going on there was a kind of strident female activism which did not merely seek to gain equality of opportunity, which would have occurred in any case, but to seek an advantage. Among the ranks of these activists were representatives of the gay and lesbian lobby and the rest is history. I also seem to remember a lot of scheming and manipulating doing on behind the scenes.

    A note about “merit selection”. Prior to 1988 any teacher wishing to gain promotion had to actually prove merit by submitting to a thorough inspection of his/her work. Once merit was established such a teacher would be placed on an eligibility list pertaining to the next promotion stage and was assured of a position in time. Merit had to be established before one was placed on such a list.

    After 1988 the rules were changed and, with the coming of “merit” selection the lists were phased out. Under this new scheme a teacher had now to write a story about oneself and if the story was good enough one was selected for interview. Those who shine at interviews and self promotion now have a distinct advantage. Furthermore the whole exercise is conducted under strict secrecy. There is no transparency as there was when eligibility lists were published. The history of this system is replete with good teachers, who apply for position after position and never get selected, and finally give up in disgust. With eligibility lists one first had to prove merit, then wait for a position to come up. If prepared to move to some of the least favorable areas of the state, such a position would come up much sooner. This guaranteed that schools “out west” had tried and true people in their leadership positions. Now they take pot luck.

    This, Michael, explains why you were unable to gain employment in a government school. The dice was loaded against you.

    The system now favours scheming and manipulating sociopaths, of which there is not a few, in positions of power, who make the lives of targets of their machinations, into a misery. The main strategy is bullying (but they call it something else) and they leave a trail of broken careers and pyschologically damaged colleagues in their wake.

    Indeed it all has more to do with power than with equality.

    In point of fact, you may have had a lucky escape.

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