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On the Map - Female teachers - Schools remain a woman's domain

In the United Kingdom, primary school teaching has long been seen as an occupation for women, with more than 80 per cent of teachers recorded as female. Secondary teaching used to be more balanced, but even there the ratio of women to men is increasing by about 1 per cent per year.

Across the world, the pattern is often very similar. In 10 of the 17 countries on our map, between 60-70 per cent of their total teaching force are women. The two extremes are Russia, where these UNESCO statistics cite women as making up 76 per cent of the teaching force, and Japan, where they are in the minority, accounting for only 42 per cent of teachers.

These figures only refer to classroom teachers. If you also added teaching assistants to the UK statistics, the percentage of women working in classrooms would certainly rise beyond the 66 per cent figure.

In many countries, including England, men are disproportionately represented at the more senior levels of the profession. And to be female and from a minority group is often to be doubly disadvantaged, as a report from the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services made clear last year.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools has run campaigns to try to recruit more men into teaching, particularly at primary level. Whether there should be strategies to make teaching a more gender-equal profession at all levels is a matter for public debate.

It will also be interesting to see whether the recession influences the number of men wanting to train as teachers.

So far, the evidence from the UK is mixed, with more men applying in some subjects, but also more women.

What then matters is the decisions of admission tutors on teacher preparation courses. These gatekeepers can be vital in determining the future composition of the teaching force.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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