Why is there a lack of male teachers in primary schools?

Published 2017

Male teachers are highly sought after in primary school circles and it’s easy to see why. In 1983, 30.24 per cent of the teaching workforce were men. In 2016, that figure dipped to just 18.26 per cent, which begs the question: why are male teachers so scarce in the primary sector?

Research has revealed men commonly quit the teaching profession due to gender-centric issues. These range from confusion about physical contact with students and the strain of having to take on masculine roles, to uncertainty about how to develop professional relationships with co-workers.

Investment has been made into making primary schools an enviable prospect for male teachers through scholarships, dating back as far as2002 when an initiative was introduced to attract, recruit and retain men in the Queensland state school system. However, it is clear that further action needs to be taken to ensure that the number of male teachers in the primary sector does not dwindle further.

The following strategies have and can be utilised to combat three of the major gender-specific challenges faced by the male teaching fraternity.

Physical contact with students

Being unsure about what constitutes suitable physical interaction with students can be difficult for male teachers. Many feel uncomfortable adopting the same strategies as their female colleagues for fear of being branded inappropriate, or worse.

Coping mechanisms have included avoiding one-on-one time with students and speaking to them in a public setting. While these can both limit the ability to develop a rapport with pupils, it is a common practice.

Increased workload

Male teachers have reported more instances of taking on additional responsibilities, such as sport coaching and STEM subjects like science and IT. This puts a strain on their time, as they are still expected to fulfil all their mandatory roles.

While many resorted to getting to work earlier and recycling old lessons to save time, approaching the principal and asking about the possibility of support is the best method for male teachers struggling to keep up with their workload.

Social isolation

Male teachers generally believed they had good relationships with their female co-workers but sometimes battled to find common interests that might be more readily available with other men.

Building conversations around colleagues’ interests and becoming more involved with external groups like sporting clubs for male companionship were both regular solutions but avoiding self-isolating practices, such as spending break time in their office instead of the staff room, would be equally helpful. 

Become a member

Already a member? LoginForgot password?

Join the conversation