Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"What Really Matters is the Quality of Teaching": Gender Balance and Primary Education

Over on the IOE London blog, Director Chis Husbands has recently contributed an account of some of the economic and historical reasons why the number of male primary teachers in some European countries is so low. He also explains why we have good reason to think that this number will improve into the future.

As a former primary school teacher, I found his analysis pretty spot on - I fell into primary school teaching after training to be a high school teacher. We were always told that high school teaching was "serious" business, while primary work is an extension of daycare. I see that this is no longer the case, of course, and in many respects my primary teaching years have comprised some of the best and most fulfilling work I have had the opportunity to engage in. I only wish I had gotten that message earlier in my teaching career.

The comment that seemed to have gotten the most attention, however, is Husband's concluding remark:

There is a recurring concern about the absence of men in primary schools, and the claimed lack of role models for boys. The evidence on the importance of gender role models in primary school is mixed. It’s important, for all sorts of reasons, that public service professions are not gendered. But in the classroom, what really matters is the quality of teaching.

Is the quality of a teacher's practice and the role modelling of gender entirety separable issues? Even if gender does in fact have little demonstrable impact on individual educational attainment, might an educational environment defined by great gender balance contribute to the educational process in other important ways?

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