Seeing men in early childhood teaching and childcare roles will not be a rare sight any more if a new initiative by NZ’s national early childhood network, ChildForum, sparks men’s interest.
The proportion of men to women working in early childhood education was higher 20 years ago than it is today. Only 2% of early childhood educators are men, compared with a high of 2.3% in 1993 and a low of just 1% in recent years.
While there are many equal employment initiatives aimed at getting women into traditionally male dominated jobs, the same emphasis does not appear to have been placed on getting men into jobs like early childhood education traditionally seen as being for women.
ChildForum’s chief researcher Dr Sarah Alexander said it is time to try something different to bring men into early childcare and teaching and address this very serious issue for children’s care and early education.
“There are some remarkable initiatives in other countries to raise the level of male participation in teaching but gender diversity just hasn't got onto the policy agenda here in NZ yet,” said Dr Alexander, who represented NZ at an international conference on Men in ECE in Berlin last year.
“We see early childhood education as providing an important foundation for children’s learning, future prospects and the success of New Zealand society and yet we continue to fail to role model gender diversity and include men in children’s care and early education.”
Under the new initiative, men considering a career in early childhood education and accepted into training would be awarded an ‘invitation’ grant or a training scholarship. In addition, ChildForum is offering a gift membership to men under the scheme giving them access to information, research, and resources online to assist them in their first year of study.
The initiative is designed to show men they are wanted and valued in the early childhood education sector and that it is a possible job choice for men.
Adam Buckingham, president of EC Menz, a group for men working in ECE, said the initiative is a welcome one.
“EC Menz has lobbied for initiatives to increase numbers of men teaching in early childhood education, so this is great news,” he said. “It is a great step to move towards gender diversity in early childhood education. This will benefit children. As more men work in the sector, more children can experience male teachers working alongside women.”
A national survey of opinion in the early childhood sector conducted by ChildForum last year showed there was enthusiasm for more men to be involved in early childhood teaching. The survey revealed that most considered this would benefit children’s learning and social development, raise quality within the sector in various ways including improving staff dynamics by having a mixed gender team, and help Dads feel more comfortable about staying with their child and participating in the programme.
Dr Alexander said it was also important to encourage men to undertake training because trained staff are more likely to stay in the profession and develop further.