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Disappearing Male Teachers an International Issue

Interesting piece in Time about worries in France about boys falling behind in school. Is it due to the disappearing male teacher?

Like other western countries, France has seen an increasing feminization of education over the past 60 years. The rate of women teachers in primary schools went from 65% in 1954 to more than 82% nowadays. In private schools it peaked recently at 91%. In secondary education, the gap is still present, although less extreme.

Like other western countries, France has seen an increasing feminization of education over the past 60 years. The rate of women teachers in primary schools went from 65% in 1954 to more than 82% nowadays. In private schools it peaked recently at 91%. In secondary education, the gap is still present, although less extreme.


Understandably, the disappearing male teacher leads to speculation that the lack of male role models is fueling the academic lag we've seen among males:


In a 2008 report about working conditions in education, French education expert Marcel Pochard stated that an equal representation of men and women seemed to be "almost out of reach." But national education authorities should be careful, he warned, and "try to avoid a complete feminization that could be blamed for giving a biased vision of society to pupils." (See why France scores an F in Education.)

Another education scholar Jean-Louis Auduc shares that opinion. In a recent essay called "Boys First," Auduc notes that jobs linked with childhood and adolescence are becoming the exclusive domain of women. During their school years, boys suffer from a lack of a male role models, he argues.

Is that why boys don't do as well as girls at school? They're more agitated, they tend to fail more easily and a smaller number of them manage to earn high school diplomas. But things may be more complex. Studies carried out in several countries have suggested there is no obvious link between the teacher's gender and academic success. What matters most is the quality of the teacher-student relationship, according to Michèle Asselin and Gisèle Bourret, two Canadian researchers.

Those who struggle the most at school are young people from poor families who also tend to be attached to traditional, stereotypical gender roles. "They sometimes challenge the authority of women teachers," a French teacher says. Specialists agree on one point: there should be more men in schools, if for no other reason than to oppose the idea that education has become a "women's matter."

Are they right to make the connection? I think it's a minor player, but I'll have to concede that I hold a minority view here. And I do think that male teachers in the all-boys urban charter schools that appear to be succeeding are important factors behind that success. Still, I come back to what I witnessed reporting the book: the quality of the teaching is what matters, not the gender of the teacher.

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