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Dwindling male teachers in the classroom

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By Nilio Gumbs 09.APR.09

Ten years ago, a caller to a Talk Show on education in Jamaica lamented that many of the problems in the education system stems from the declining number of males in the education system. Surprisingly, a former stalwart of education in this country intimated the same argument to me, but on more common ground – a corner shop.{{more}}

I have heard many people attributing the rising level of indiscipline in schools and the falling standard of sports and music in general in this country to the declining presence of male teachers in the education system.

The problems in the education system may be multi-faceted and cannot be attributed to any single variable.

The decline of male teachers in the classroom is not confined to St.Vincent or the wider Caribbean. In the United States, approximately 75 per cent of the teachers are females.

However, for posterity, I recently examined the gender make up of the education system to gain a better understanding of the stated hypothesis and thus enable me to articulate on the matter in my own private setting.

In the 2007/08 school year, the total number of teachers in the system amounted to 1,568. Of this total, 1,124 or 71.7 per cent were females. On the other hand there were 444 males or 28.3 per cent of teachers.

If compared to 1990, where the number of teachers in the system amounted to 1,456 and males accounting for 35 per cent of the teaching population, one can conclude that the percentage of male teachers in the education system had fallen in relative and absolute terms.

This decline of male teachers may have a profound impact on the education system and the wider society.

Brad MacDonald, in an article the Case of Male Teachers, noted that though they have consistently been outnumbered by female teachers, male teachers and administrators have a unique and profound impact on a school and its students. The firm presence of mature, law-abiding men is critical to the rounded development and maturity of all students, especially boys.

According to Alexis Tibbetts, Florida’s Okaloosa County superintendent of schools, male teachers are critically important “as role models for young men, especially those who may be coming from single-parent households.

In 2007-08, there were 185 male teachers in primary schools. In1990, the number was 350. This amounted to approximately 23 per cent of primary school teachers, while in 1990, it was 32 percent.

Most Male Primary School Teachers are located in rural schools. Of the 185 male Primary School Teachers in 2007, 132 or 71.3 per cent are in rural schools. The amount of female teachers in urban areas totaled 83.9 per cent or 224, while males amounts to around 16 per cent or 43 teachers.

In secondary schools the picture is no better. In 2007, male teachers amounted to 37 per cent of all teachers in those schools. In 1990 it was 45 per cent.

The declining presence of male teachers may have more to do with males’ perception of teaching – viewed as a woman’s job at the primary level. There is also the possibility of obtaining less strenuous and more lucrative jobs in the private sector. The possibility of migration to greener pastures cannot also be ruled out.

Of the 47 students who graduated from the Division of Teacher Education, formerly the Teachers’ College, in 2008, 8 were males. Over the past 5 years, 255 students graduated from that institution, with only a paltry 35 being males.

The number of males being appointed as Principals is also on the down. Of the 60 Principals in primary schools in 1990, 29 were males. In 2007, this number was down to 18 or approximately 31 per cent.

When other years are factored into this analysis, the trend remains the same, which begs the question, what is the Ministry of Education doing to combat this trend?

The decline of male teachers may be part of a wider social problem of male marginalization in society. Errol Miller in Men at Risk spoke of the marginalization of males in Jamaican society.

Some may want to question the recruitment and selection policy in the education system, but it can argued that the number of male teachers in the education system is a reflection of the numbers who apply and graduate from the Division of Teacher Education.

Principals’ pre-occupation with discipline and their perception that that is the most important aspect of education management is of grave concern.

Many Principals seem not to be overly enthused about or encourage students to be actively involved in sports. They recognize and can establish a link between students behavior and sports. But that may be as far as it goes-they preach it -but don’t practice it.

One can look with envy to Barbados, where Hurdles and Cross Country running are part of the athletic discipline in schools. So, too, Volley Ball and Basket Ball are sporting disciplines. Their National School Band is 101 members strong.

Politicians should take some of the blame for the morbid state of sports in the education system. They are more pre-occupied with building schools in their constituencies without regarding location and topography, often ignoring attending features such as playing fields.

The Moyne Commission, released as far back as 1945, recommended that all schools should have a Tuck Shop and a playing field. So, after 64 years we have not gotten the message as yet!

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