The Early Childhood Council's press release on the shortage of men working in early childhood education is quite short-sighted in its content. Comments made on TVNZ's Breakfast Show this morning by its chief executive were ill-informed and lacking.
The comments appear to be fanning the paedophile hysteria of the early 1990s that the first summit for Men in ECE in 2007 (see photo opposite), organised by ChildForum, had put to rest.
And bringing up that hysteria of the past again is not going to help raise the number of men working in early childhood education either.
"The issue of men working in childcare being associated with sex abuse was put to rest within the sector a long time ago and the sector has moved on with the percentage of male teachers since 2007 starting to rise again.
"The Early Childhood Council, while saying it does not agree with the idea, has nevertheless been keen to remind the public of the historically ugly 1990s argument that men in childcare are associated with sex abuse which may backfire and engender bias against the new generation of male teachers."
Blaming teacher training providers, as the ECC has done, for not producing enough qualified male teachers is surely not helpful.
Childcare centres and kindergartens both have the same percentage of men (1.8%) in their services – but kindergartens employ all qualified teachers within minimum staff ratios and still have 1.8% males while childcare centres could have more than this as they can employ some unqualified teachers.
This suggests that if kindergartens have the same level of males then the problem is more to do with employment biases than with the trainers alone.
Any childcare operators, including centres such as Kindercare represented by the ECC, who are upset that there are not more men working in early childhood education can do something about this.
The Wellington Kindergarten Association provides a great example of this with their recent scheme which saw young men employed in untrained positions alongside qualified staff, providing the men with an insight into how early childhood education works.
The Association took on eight young men, five or six of whom are now reported to be considering further training in ECE.
Fathers and older men disillusioned with their careers and keen to do work that will make a difference for the next generation are particularly interested in working in early childhood education. But getting a job in childcare and being able to sacrifice earnings in order to train for a three or four-year degree can be quite a different matter.
Childcare employers belonging to the ECC could employ more men in their centres, they could support their training, and they could be giving men workplace experience.
EC-MENz is a national organisation which has a valuable role in providing advocacy and support networks for men working in early childcare and education in NZ.
In countries that are more successful in employing men in childcare there is commitment at the management level within services to do so. Targets, incentives, and scholarships alongside management commitment can help also.
Rather than grandstanding and blaming training providers the ECC would do better to get behind the childcare operators it represents and help them to think innovatively when working towards raising the number of male teachers.
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