My eight-year old’s teacher is retiring early next year. He was disappointed with the news and I asked him if he already knew who would replace her.
“No,” he answered, “but I really hope I have a meester.” His wish for a male teacher stems from the fact that, despite being in his fifth year of school, he has yet to be taught by a man.
That’s certainly not to take anything away from his female teachers, but he thinks a male standing before his class would be wonderful.
The head of his school is female. The school counselor is female. The two teachers he has are female.
He has one male teacher for his German lessons, but that class lasts thirty minutes a week at most.
In all the years before, at three different educational institutions, my son has only had female teachers.
In the Netherlands, primary schools accommodate working on a part-time basis; it is predominantly women who work part-time.
The number of meesters in the Dutch primary system fall as each school year goes by. My eldest son is in his last year of primary school and he has a male teacher for three days a week. However, his teacher is also nearing retirement. The question is how much longer will there be any male presence in the school my boys attend?
The fact that women are the predominant gender in the primary education system is not news. The issue of a lack of male teachers is certainly not limited to the Netherlands.
So why are there so few men teaching in the primary education system? The teaching profession does not pay well enough. Teaching offers few career development opportunities. Men would prefer to see more of a return to the basics – that teaching is more about giving lessons and less about administration and bureaucracy.
But I guess these wishes apply to women in teaching too.
There’s a financial issue and the problem of prestige. But as a society we are exacerbating the issue because we see teaching as a female profession. And that needs to change. How? I don’t know. We are making the effort to convince girls to move into STEM professions, but we also somehow need to attract men into the roles that are traditionally taken on my females: like teaching.
There are benefits for boys and girls when there are males in front of classes. Boys need role models in a place they spend so many hours of their lives. I sincerely hope my sons will have a male influence in the years to come in the education system. But it’s certainly not a given.
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