logo

ChildForum Early Childhood Education Nationwide Network
Promoting quality, valuing knowledge, advancing thinking and working together for the benefit of children, services and the sector

Follow us on FacebookFollow us on Twitteryoutube

Member Login

Member space

 

“People Still Think of Us as Babysitters” - Sexism and What's in a Name?

teachingBy Sarah Alexander
© ChildForum 

Discussion article

Why do people still think of early childhood teachers as babysitters, caregivers, or childcare workers? 

Why are unqualified teachers called 'teachers' instead of 'assistants' or 'teacher-aides' in early childhood education?  In the school sector a qualified teacher only is typically viewed as and called a 'teacher' and anyone who is unqualified is not taken to be a teacher.

Early childhood teachers provide care for children in the parents’ absence. It is what early childhood teachers do because unlike schooling early childhood education is not compulsory for (most) children to attend. 

Early childhood teaching is so much more than babysitting! The low social respect and with it low pay is not acceptable either. Just ask any early childhood teacher.

What can be done about this?  There are two options.

1. Protect the title of teacher and make sure that the Ministry of Education, the public, and everyone in the sector only uses the title for teachers who hold a qualified recognised teaching qualification

2. Change the image of early childhood teaching as women's work by bringing men in, in a significant or equal number

A third option, and perhaps not one that would suit the early childhood sector if it wants pay parity and equal status with the compulsory sector is to go for a different title for early childhood teachers.

 

Bring Men into Early Childhood Teaching and Address Political and Institutional Gender Bias

Several years ago when there was a shortage of qualified teachers created by not enough teachers being trained at a time when the government had a goal of supporting the sector toward employing 80% and then progressing to 100% qualified teachers, the sector started to look more professional in the public eye.   

But this boost to the status of the sector was short-lived - the Ministry of Education did nothing to address the stereotype that early childhood teaching is women's work. It did nothing to show its support of gender diversity:

  • it did not set a target for increasing the proportion of male to female teachers, and
  • it did require early childhood services to have employment policies and an early childhood curriculum that included gender diversity as a goal.

There was no significant increase in the proportion of male to female teachers at the time that early childhood centre employer demand for teachers outstripped supply (2007 - 2010). 

The NZ government, and its agent the Ministry of Education who holds stewardship of the ECE sector, sees value in maintaining the status quo of early childhood teaching being 'women's work' and having a low social image.  It means it can much more easily manipulate and control the sector and any protests. 

In Australia a politician provided this summary:   

A lot of women, mostly women, used to look after kids in childcare centres. And then they brought in this national quality framework and they had to go and get a Certificate III in childcare in order to continue the job they were doing — you know, wiping noses and stopping the kids from killing each other.
A lot of women just quit. The ones who got certificate threes said, ‘OK, I want more pay now that I’m more qualified’. All we did was drive up the cost because of this credentialism. (Senator David Leyonhjelm interview on TV show The Project, Jan 2017).

Which no doubt reflects the views of some of our NZ political leaders and administrators - except they don't put it into words as Senator Leyonhjelm did. Read more about sexism in the NZ Ministry of Education's administration of ECE - in an opinion article published on the Stuff news website

Also learn more about the advocacy that has been undertaken, political reactions, and research in a speech given by Dr Alexander in 2016.

 

Coming up with a title that is not Workers, Teachers, Nannies, Ladies, and Educators  

Looking at the bigger picture of the status of early childhood work we come back to the title that is given.  

Was the name change from childcare worker to early childhood teacher in the 1990s sufficient to eradicate the association with babysitting?  It was not, it seems.

How people see those performing a particular job is related to what a job is called. For example, not all men who may be great with young children will want to risk being seen to be doing work that conjures up the image of babysitting among their peers. 

The title given to a job suggests an image of the job and the skills it requires.  

Use of the title ‘teacher’ runs the problem of not being seen to be accurate because it immediately creates confusion among those who see teaching as what happens in primary and secondary education and an early childhood teacher’s role is quite different and unique to this.

Use of the title ‘educator’ leads to confusion with parenting since being an educator is a prime part of parents’ role and this does little to define the work as a professional occupation. 

In the past in NZ it was only women who served passengers on planes – they were called air hostesses. A change in terminology to 'cabin crew' has seen the occupation open up to include diverse people (gender, age, and race) and the 'trolley dolly' image has been shaken.  

Changes in image have also come about through changes in titles in some other occupations – for example, 'secretaries' have become valued for their skills now as 'personal assistants' (PAs).

So the question is, should we keep the titles of “early childhood teacher” or “early childhood educator” or  change to something like “education developmentalist”,  “birth to 5 specialist", “early learning designer”,  “constructor” ….  Or …. What are your thoughts on this?   

 

Login with your member's username and password to keep reading

Here’s how our membership plans work

  • Individual Membership plans can view both Individual member-only articles and our library of Research Journals.
  • Early Childhood Service plans can view ALL member articles: Individual, Research Journals and Early Childhood Service articles - along with support and a range of other benefits as outlined on the Join Us page 
  • Research Journal subscription plans can view our library of Research Journals and the articles in all past and current jounral issues.

Should you not hold a current membership –  you are welcome to apply now.

Free E-Newsletter

Receive the free Early Childhood Alert.

captcha 

We hate spam as much as you, we will not sell your contact details to anyone.

You can unsubscribe at any time.

Read our Privacy Policy here.

Don’t miss out any longer, click the button below to join ChildForum

Join Us!

child-with-binoculars-small

 

Subscribe now for information you can trust, expert advice and research, as well as access to quality resources

We are confident you will be delighted to discover and experience the benefits of membership - so join now and make this message for non-members disappear from your screen. 

Membership Options

Individual
Member

Who is this for?
Any person who has an interest in early childhood education and care or who works directly with children.

$98.00 12 months from the date of joining
$60.00 6 months student-only

The membership belongs to you, and you only. Enjoy your own personal username and password.

ECE Service Organisation
Member

Who is this for?
Centres, home-based, hospital-based, playgroups ... established or newly licensed. Gives access to professional & research materials enjoyed by individual members PLUS service operation and management area. 

$198.00 12 months for a standalone licensed service
Special rates for organisations with more than 1 licence

The membership belongs to your whole organisation, team members and managers.

Library NZ-International Research
in ECE Journal Subscriber

Who is this for?
Universities, Polytechnics and organisations wishing to have online access to the NZ-Int Research in ECE journal (includes all past and current issues) 

$125.00 annual subscription, renewable in November each year

A username and password for your library users linked to your IP address.