Males in education system

The current situation regarding males in education is significant enough to warrant a strategic, long-term intervention. For over a decade, there has been clear evidence that the boys in our schools are not having an equal experience to that of girls. More importantly — as studies have unearthed — the issue goes well beyond a mere question of competence, interest in, or value for, education.
There are at play deep socio-cultural and other factors that indicate the need for a multifaceted approach towards addressing the issue. The potential consequences of ignoring the problem are dire, and the red flags are numerous, demanding that something be done at the soonest. The issue is affecting the entire Caribbean, and as such, there are some lessons from sister territories that could inform the approaches adopted.
One dimension — and arguably one of the most significant contributors to the problem — is the absence of male teachers in the system. The exodus of males from the teaching profession would have been chronicled over the last three decades. The process unfolded gradually, and, over time, it appears that the system simply adjusted to the changes. There has not been any intervention to target the absence of male teachers in the system.
Initially, economics was considered the major push factor at play. The question of whether this remains the primary consideration has merit, and studies are now examining why males are not opting for teaching as a career.
Regardless of the causes, there has to be a well-thought-out solution, since the issue has now hit crisis proportions. The most recent data show that there are over 8000 female teachers in the system, as compared to just about 2000 males.
Research has indicated that this acute imbalance impacts the quality of the educational experiences boys are having. It is important to mention here that female teachers view the behaviour of boys much differently from male teachers. The research indicates that female teachers consider boys at the primary level to be highly disruptive and uninterested in education; whereas girls, on the other hand, are viewed as settled, model pupils. An extension of this is that boys are more often penalised for their behaviours, which in turn impacts their academic experiences.
As early as grade four, there are decisions made regarding the academic potential of boys that have little basis in competence indices, but more to do with their behaviours.
In studies across the world, boys have reported that their male teachers encourage them more, and have a greater impact on their confidence levels as pupils.
This issue has implications well beyond the academic experiences boys are having, however, and speaks to the very nature of their socialisation. Schools are critical socialising institutions, and the absence of male role models in schools must impact the extent to which boys receive critical social cues regarding their gender identity and their expected roles.
The fact that the absence of male teachers further compounds the problem of the education of the ‘emotions of boys’. This forces boys to seek guidance from alternative external sources that oftentimes are not as wholesome. Research has also shown that boys feel more comfortable speaking to male teachers about issues they are having both at home and at school.
It must be noted here that boys are not the only ones to benefit greatly from the presence of male teachers. Girls also need solid male role models to provide balance in their socialisation. In addition, to the extent that schools are a microcosm of society, they should fully reflect the diversity and prevailing cultural dynamics found in the wider society. There is an overabundance of accounts of the ‘feminisation’ of schooling, brought about in large part by the absence of male teachers in the profession. Both female and male inputs are vital to the effective delivery of education.
The work environment is greatly enhanced by the presence of male teachers providing balance in perspectives and approaches. Traditionally, males have championed the use of technology and the importance of sports and other extracurricular activities in schools. Their absence has left key voids that need to be addressed.