Gender divide in elementary education & child care

My son’s elementary school had 34 teachers. Only three of the teachers were male. Coincidently, I attended the very same elementary school some 40 years earlier and there were precisely three male teachers at that time as well. Two of them taught fifth grade and one taught fourth grade. By sheer coincidence(?) the same distribution still exists today. The gender breakdown among teachers at my son’s middle school is about 40/60 male/female, and looking at the list of teachers for his future high school, it appears that ratio is about 50/50.

Going back even further, I recall looking into various day care and preschool facilities and I don’t think we encountered a single male staff member at any of them.

Based on this observation, one might conclude males are ill-suited to instruct young children, but are better suited to teaching older children.

A couple questions:

  • is the gender divide described above fairly universal? Is the local school district, perhaps some aberration?

  • what factors might account for such a gender imbalance in these vocations?

AIUI, it is pretty universal in Westernized or developed nations. Not sure about non-Western or developing countries.

As for the reason, perhaps threefold: 1) Women are often more nurturing or drawn towards nurture-type professions, 2) Men are afraid of trouble if they are in a job that interacts with young children, 3) Parents often prefer that women be the teachers (this is sometimes related to 2#), and 4) it becomes a self-sustaining cycle. Having most teachers be women creates a cycle whereby men feel that it is a women’s field, and hence are even less likely to enter the profession, and then it becomes women begetting more women.

Edit: Eh, I said “threefold” but wrote four things…

Hi Opal.

It would never occur to me to conclude that.

My presumption would be that either A) Men are not interested in instructing young children (for a myriad of reasons) and/or B) Principals are not as interested in hiring men to instruct young children (for whatever reasons).

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!:smiley:

Another factor may have to do with pay. Elementary school teachers aren’t particularly high paid in general (I can’t speak for any school in particular). Since getting a teaching certification requires additional college work I think that more men then women look at the job and see that it would be difficult to raise a family on an elementary teacher’s salary. I don’t think most women make that same calculation. They care less about the money and more about the kids, and the fact that women are naturally more nurturing than men has already been mentioned. Thank goodness women are willing to become elementary school teachers or we would be SOL.

MONEY is one reason.

Elementary pay scales are markedly lower than high school.

Also advancement. High school is seen as a better path to advance towards being a principal or other administrator. Men for various reasons tend to view administration as an end-goal and women are more likely to see teaching as the end-goal.

There’s also just typical sexism bias. You’ll see many more elementary PE teachers than other teachers because PE is still seen as a realm where men are allowed to be while still being men. If you are a male kindergarten teacher, people think pedophile. If you’re a male PE teacher, they think athlete, so men shy away from elementary ed.

Not so much in Spain as in the US, to mention the two I can actually compare firsthand. Part of it is simply because when our private schools (most owned by some Catholic religious Order) went co-ed, the same Brothers who had been taking care of the youngest kids didn’t suddenly have the qualifications to teach high-schoolers; they went on taking care of the youngest kids. Our most socially-sexist times had an enormous amount of our schools segregated by sex, so they were also years when there were lots of teachers of both genders at the lower ages.

Those schools created by people with anarchist/libertarian backgrounds were likely to have male teachers (this started during the 19th century); the introduction of Normal schools (20th century) saw a lot of women becoming primary school teachers, but men never stopped teaching the lower levels. And we’ve never had the levels of “teacher scare” than there have been in the US, or rather, when we have, they’ve been linked to the Church scandals and not perceived as a thing on its own.

There are people who think “boys can’t be primary school teachers”, but they’re an extreme minority and tend to be complete imbeciles in other ways. The Oldest Nephew’s response to his mother was “of course boys can’t, MEN can!” (btw, the kindergarten teacher both him and his sister had is male, and so were their homeroom teachers in 1st grade; 1.SiL is proof that you don’t need to be good at logic to get a medical degree).

Some fields are extremely highly sex biased. I work in manufacturing IT for a mega-corp and absolutely all of us that do hands on work are male. There are some female managers but they do things like handle budgets. When is the last time you saw a female mechanic? For that matter, when is the last time you had a male dental hygienist? It isn’t discrimination. It is self selection. Men and women are not the same and that is a good thing.

I agree the lower pay is part of it.

From a traditional viewpoint, many (not all) families still tend to think of the husband’s salary as the foundation of the family finances. It is what makes sure they do not starve or are homeless. If the wife has 2 kids or more (the limit where the cost of daycare starts to offset lower paid jobs) she can quit her work and stay home and the family will not financially collapse. Even if the husband would like to be a teacher he may feel strongly averted away from the lower-paid jobs if at all possible.

Correspondingly, the woman’s pay may be seen as “additional.” It allows for more than one car, a nicer apartment, better clothes, etc. Because of this she does not have to be as discriminating on amount of pay and can “follow her dreams” of teaching if she desires.

Average income for an secondary teacher is about 3-4% higher so money might play a small role. The biggest part is interest, when you look at career choices men prefer dealing with things and women with people. Elementary school is about dealing with kids and very little about subject matter. High school is dealing with kids and in depth about the subject matter.

It is self selection, but I seriously doubt it’s based on any kind of inherent capability.

I think it’s a status thing- elementary school teaching is not seen as high-status, so men tend to avoid it. Combine that with lower pay, and you have a double-whammy.

High school teaching is seen as higher status- it’s “academic”, while elementary school is seen as more game-playing, song-singing, hugs and finger painting type stuff. Plus a lot of male high school teachers also coach sports, which is also considered respectable.

I also think smarter/more capable female college students are not choosing teaching for the status reasons. Out of 700-ish female college students I came in contact with during my time in my school’s honors dorm as a resident or RA, I can remember one who wanted to be a teacher. There may have been a few more, but it was a TINY number. There were more weirdos who woke up at 6 am and went to bed at 9 (and bitched about noise in the halls) than there were people who seriously considered teaching. They all wanted to be doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc… now that things had changed over the decades such that women could do those things.

I’d watch where you use that phrase. That was one of the phrases that was noted that the suspended CERN physicist used. Arguably he said a lot of other inappropriate things as well.

If you have a family the hours kind of align too. Summers off when your kids are off, ditto Christmas and spring break.

There’s a whole lot of good reasons before ‘men are ill suited’!

Anecdotally, over here Velocity’s #2 is the big problem. The climate these days is one of automatic male guilt and it’s been that way for at least the past quarter-century.

For pre-school and daycare, around here - again anecdotally - it’s because it works better that way. Daycare offerers are often people with young children themselves, so why not get paid for it?

That said, a male former neighbour went on to become the head teacher of a primary school.

In the Spanish public system the pay is the same between 1st and 12th grades (getting there for preschool as well). Private schools tend to pay less, but they’re also less difficult to get a job in. Private schools get their teachers in the same way as any general business (interviews, recommendations, etc.); public schools get their temps from Rotas or lists held by the corresponding regional governments, long-term teachers from civil servant exams where one of the things that “gives points” in the final grading is how much time of temping you already have.

This doesn’t hold true. Business leaders primarily deal with people. The people that they lead and the people in other businesses that they negotiate with. By far, the majority of business leaders are male.

There is a widespread belief in the US that any male who works with children is most likely a pedophile.

I know a man who lost/quit his job at a day care center. He was by all accounts an excellent employee. But his presence made parents uncomfortable. They didn’t even have a specific complaint. It was just that fact that he was a man. The day care people knew they couldn’t legally fire him, but he knew he was making customers nervous and he quit on his own.