Ministry aware of gender imbalance in schools but doesn’t plan to do anything about it

Students are now less likely to have a male teacher, with many going through their early education years without ever encountering a male role model.

Ministry of Education figures show fewer than one-in-five primary school teachers are male.

Principals want more research on what is putting men off the profession, but fear pay and high-profile sexual abuse cases are to blame.

The Ministry of Education is "very conscious" of the gender imbalance, but says with no shortage of teachers there are no recruitment drives aimed at men.

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"Evidence tells us that the most important factor in lifting achievement is the quality of teaching, not the gender of the teacher," said Dr Graham Stoop, the ministry's head of student achievement.

Last year 28 per cent of teachers were men, down slightly from 2012 and a fall from 30 per cent in the mid-2000s.

The percentage of male teachers at primary schools fell to 18 per cent (down 1 per cent) and at secondary schools dipped to 42 per cent (down 2 per cent).

Latest Census statistics show only 3 per cent of teachers in the early childhood sector are men.

Principals' Federation president Phil Harding said many schools struggled to hire male teachers, and there were good reasons why a more even gender split was desirable.

"Look at the percentages of children that are living with no father in their daily lives. We see the fall-out from that with boys that have lost their way, are desperately unhappy, and don't feel like they can talk about it with mum.

"So that all gets bottled up and rebounds in the playground in anger - deeply seated stuff."

Mr Harding says reasons for the imbalance were complex, but could include pay rates and sexual abuse cases involving male teachers.

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"I think if that's a perception we should be offering reassuring noises that it's a very unusual event and there are things you can do to keep yourself safe. There are certainly people who are scared about it."

Government scholarships have been used to entice more people to become teachers in subjects where there are shortages.

Antoinette Vaha, student services manager at the University of Auckland's Faculty of Education, said the gender split was around 85 per cent female to 15 per cent male for its primary teaching programmes.

Ms Vaha said the perception that teaching qualifications limited a career to the classroom was out-of-date, with many graduates eventually working within areas including business development or consultancy, research and policy analysis.

A knack with the schoolkids

Ra-Tane Edelsten, who is studying at the University of Auckland to become a primary school teacher. A case study for article on number of male teachers picture supplied via AUCKLAND UNIVERSITY FREE FOR EDITORIAL USE
Ra-Tane Edelsten, who is studying at the University of Auckland to become a primary school teacher. A case study for article on number of male teachers picture supplied via AUCKLAND UNIVERSITY FREE FOR EDITORIAL USE

Ra-Tane Edelsten will start teaching at Te Atatu South's Tirimoana School next year.

Ra-Tane Edelsten never considered a career in teaching until being asked to teach music at tiny Colville School in the Coromandel.

Mr Edelsten, a qualified graphic designer, enjoyed working with the children and had a knack for it - he was soon asked to take on more work mentoring some boys at the school.

After a period of travel and living overseas, the 31-year-old returned home and decided to become a primary school teacher.

He recently finished the final year of study at the University of Auckland and will start at Te Atatu South's Tirimoana School next year.

While Tirimoana has an unusually high number of male teachers, Mr Edelsten said the latest Ministry of Education figures reflected his other early experiences in education.

"Often there would be [university] tutorials of 70 people, and at some moment I'd look around and realise it was only myself and one other male in the room."

"I've talked to lots of parents that want their daughters to have a class with a male teacher at some point, because often kids are going right the way through without meeting a single male teacher. Males and females, we are different. And I think the different approaches, especially in an educational setting, we should get that range."