So where have all the male teachers gone?

27th August 2010 at 01:00

Like French cuisine, Scottish education has long traded on its reputation, so the current review of teacher education is timely.

Those Scots among us who have taught in Europe are not surprised by our system's slippage in international comparisons of achievement.

Seemingly insoluble behavioural issues in the classroom, a suite of SQA exams which often daunt weaker candidates but fail to challenge the more able, not to mention endless political meddling in education, might be better places to look for answers to this decline than in teacher education.

Nevertheless, any system can always be improved and inquiry can be useful. The "bottom-up" dynamic of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) demands that all classroom teachers, now more than ever, have the conceptual resources and training to operate successfully in these challenging times.

In his review of teacher education, I hope Graham Donaldson has shone his torch into some strange statistics on chartered teachers which have been published by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

Of the 900 or so teachers who have been awarded chartered teacher status in Scotland, 84 per cent are women. While we can happily raise two long- overdue cheers for this breakthrough, it raises troubling questions about what Scottish male teachers are up to - or, rather, not up to.

Given that the chartered teacher scheme is aimed at honing the teaching skills of experienced teachers to enhance the quality of the pupils' learning experience and achievements, such a programme must be a lead player in any recommendations by Donaldson to drive up pedagogic standards. As matters stand at the moment, however, male teachers are barely perceptible on the CT radar.

Ah, say apologists, that is because the programme is colonised largely by primary teachers, where the predominance of women is well documented. Not so. The same GTCS report confirmed that the split between primary and secondary CTs is virtually even.

So where have all the men gone? As preparations for CfE have highlighted, individual teacher responsibility for the enhancement of pupils' learning experience has never been greater. Opportunities for creative pedagogic input are currently limitless. Of course, failure to participate more fully in the CT programme does not constitute conclusive proof that male teachers are failing to pull their weight in terms of continuing professional development. But it is indicative of a reluctance to formalise such a commitment to teaching and learning enhancement.

There is, of course, a fairly obvious answer to the absence of men from the programme - and it is a somewhat depressing one. The figures suggest that even in this era of claimed equality among the sexes, men still see their way to career advancement through the managerial route.

Happily, however, despite the demands of bringing up children, women are increasingly making their mark in the senior ranks of educational management, as well as in the field of professional pedagogical inquiry. But in this latter area, male teachers would appear to be dragging their feet.

It is therefore time for more men to wake up and smell the coffee. The multiple challenges of CfE require as many teachers as possible to add their creative input to the enhancement of teaching and learning - irrespective of gender.

Dr Christopher Nicol is a chartered teacher in Galashiels Academy. He was formerly chef de langues vivantes at the Euro-American Institute of Technology, Sophia Antipolis, France.

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