Forum: Treat male pre-school teachers fairly, Forum News & Top Stories

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It is heartening that the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) welcomes men in the early childhood sector (More men wanted as pre-school teachers even as numbers rise, June 29).

Indeed, male educators bring new perspectives and can enact meaningful change within the industry.

And efforts are being made to change the attitudes of men, to encourage them to be early childhood teachers.

As the ECDA embarks on its campaign to recruit male pre-school teachers, it is also key to get buy-in from other stakeholders such as pre-school administrators and female teachers.

Professional development sessions on gender issues in the workplace may be required to support teachers and administrators in putting aside preconceived notions about the roles of educators of different genders.

Within pre-schools, male teachers need to be treated equitably.

Colleagues should not expect men to assume predetermined gender-based roles – such as being a disciplinarian, outdoor play specialist or repair person – as often happens in early childhood contexts.

Equitable treatment of male teachers also extends to the provision of routine care.

One reason why male educators may be hesitant about joining the early childhood education sector is the fear of being perceived as a sexual predator or child molester.

That men, in general, are not allowed to support children in routine tasks – like showering and using the toilet – inadvertently promotes the idea that male educators might be predators.

If stringent background checks are done on all teachers, it seems unlikely that this disparate treatment of teachers is necessary.

Furthermore, in a sector already facing manpower issues, principals and administrators may be discouraged from hiring men if they end up performing fewer tasks than their female counterparts.

When vying for positions as pre-school educators, men are thus put at a distinct disadvantage.

Chin Hui Wen