Boys don't learn better with male teachers, says study

Chris Johnston

Australia. A major Australian study has countered the belief that more male teachers in secondary schools improves boys' academic achievement.

Almost 1,000 students in Years 8 and 10 at high schools in New South Wales (NSW) and the Australian Capital Territory were surveyed by Andrew Martin and Herbert Marsh from the University of Western Sydney.

In their report Motivating boys and motivating girls: Does teacher gender really make a difference? the academics concluded: "Contrary to popular argument that boys fare better under male teachers, it was found that there existed no such significant interaction between student gender and teacher gender.

"The only significant interaction that emerged was that girls reported a better relationship with female teachers than with male teachers, while boys reported fairly similar relationships."

Dr Martin said the most important factor in boosting boys' results was the quality of the teaching. "It would be great to have more men in schools, but I'm opposed to the prescriptive 50:50 model," he said.

However, Richard Fletcher, an education academic at NSW's Newcastle university, said: "Boys need to see that men care about education and children. We should be aiming for as close to 50:50 malefemale ratio as possible."

Professor Marsh and Dr Martin conceded that their findings did not "necessarily apply to the emotional and personal dimensions of students'

lives".

The report may prompt Brendan Nelson, the Australian education minister, to reconsider plans to lure more men into becoming teachers. The federal government last year announced a scholarship plan to encourage male graduates into primary schools but it was rejected by the senate.

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Chris Johnston

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