Feminization of Education
Gender expectations, as mentioned, are of extreme concern. Driesen (2007), however, argued that the achievement of boys or lack thereof, is not of a result of the feminization of primary education. Driesen asserted that the “percentage of women teaching is constantly increasing at the cost of the percentage of men” (p. 185). However, this is not seen as a negative according to the author. Despite acknowledging that the content and method in which it is being delivered is increasingly becoming feminine that does not support an argument to state that boys are being left behind with their education.
The argument, according to Driesen (2007), is that the decreasing amount of male role models, performing masculine activities, displaying an ability to have, as previously mentioned, masculine hegemony needs to be discussed, however not fixed. That is, while it is obvious there is a lack of males within primary education, it is not vital that this increases. Thus, one needs to answer the question, is achievement higher among male students with a female teacher or a male teacher?
Statistics have displayed the ever increasing amount of female primary teachers, specifically within the year two classes, where 98% of teachers are females. In addition to this, Driesen’s findings suggest that the amount of female teachers has risen very rapidly, with each class year representing an annual increase from 1996 to 2002.
With the numbers in mind, Driesen (2007) discussed what differences male and female teachers possess within their classrooms. Essentially, Driesen found that there is no difference among the genders in reference to training, job satisfaction, and other categories.
Weil (2008) asserted that female teachers are more soft-spoken and gentle with their approach in the classroom. Weil suggested that differences in classrooms can be seen with the most minor details such as room temperature, lighting, and color. Thus, while there may not be a difference in the overall attitude of a teacher, slight differences within the classroom could have a major effect on student achievement.
Furthermore, Driesen researched student achievement and the findings suggested that “neither the sex nor the ethnicity of the teachers have an effect [on achievement test scores]” (2007, p. 188). Furthermore, Driesen findings negated that of
Debating Driesen’s assertion that the gender of an instructor does not make a difference with the achievement and behavior of students, Beaman et al. (2006) suggested that male students “dominate classroom interactions” (p. 339). On average, males receive about two-thirds of teacher attention during a class, however, this attention was predominantly given to a small amount of the male students and was typically when reprimanding the student. Furthermore, boys received “60% of student directed gaze”, which can be thought of as a form of reprimanding, or expecting the students to speak before they have spoken (Beaman et al., 2006, p. 343).
This extra attention is said to be due to a greater portion of boys having “special learning needs…[rather] than an issue of sex bias” (Beaman et al, 2006, p. 347). However, Beaman et al. also reported that boys were receiving “significantly more negative feedback than girls” (p. 348). In fact, interviews from teachers report that “both male and female teachers, [found that] girls were seen to offer much less of a management challenge” (Beaman et al., 2007, p. 350). Disruptive boys were found to be talking without being picked on and having difficulties staying on task. This disruption, Weil (2008) wrote, is simply boys being boys and should be used as a positive factor, rather then a negative. That is, a teacher should utilize the high energy a young boy brings to the classroom rather then punishing him for it. Beaman et al. write that the tolerance level for boys is less then that of girls, which causes a higher number of reprimands. In fact, teachers should allow boys to be more active as those are the behaviors which will be utilized in future endeavors.
Myhill and Jones (2006) asserted that teachers are treating boys differently then girls and that school are simply amplifying the stereotypes of society. Furthermore, “girls are constructed as the good student while boys are viewed as the interesting person” (Myhill & Jones, 2006, p. 100). Increasingly, teachers are labeling boys as negative and in need of greater discipline and structure. Conversely, girls are seen as harder workers with superior organization skills. The combination of females being the ideal student and the lack of males within schools, Beaman et al. (2007) wrote, is resulting in boys viewing school and consequently education, as being feminine.
The discussion however is not focused on the behavior of boys and girls, rather the achievement. Beaman et al. (2007) assert that the achievement gap for boys and girls has increased and that boys in general are having worse overall performances. It is then asserted that teachers have a “low[er] expectation of boys” (Myhill & Jones, 2006, p. 101). Thus, boys struggles are expected, and therefore not noted as readily.
Reminiscent of Carrington, Beaman et al. (2006) wrote that often the actions of boys are often promoted as the construction of masculinity. Furthermore, these antics, which often lead to the student being named the class clown, also are referred to as the favourite. This however, is not always a positive outcome and typically results in the student being a poor influence within the classroom and consequently disrupting behaviour.
With this acting out in mind, Beaman et al. (2006) asserted that male students are over-represented within special education programs. That is, of students whom are defined as having special needs, 70% are boys (Beaman et al., 2006). This over-whelming figure, can be attested due to “boys showing disruptive behaviour” as well as a lack of reading achievement (Beaman et al., 2006, p. 359). Both issues, the authors write, appear to be a result of boys not behaving appropriately within the classroom. That is, the boys are acting like boys and not similar to the ideal student or female way.
Special education issues can also be chalked up to teacher referrals, according to Beaman et al. (2006). Gender bias, is noted when reviewing students in need of special education and their subsequent referral agents. That is, disruptive behaviour could cause a student to be referred to special education despite no real need for special education. This assertion is given further credence with the understanding that “teachers tend to refer students who bothered them in the classroom” (Beaman et al., 2006, p. 360). Furthermore, “only 36% of teacher-referred students met the district criteria for learning disability services” (Beaman et al., 2006, p. 360). Thus, it is evident that students who are being referred for special education are inappropriately being referred and it is hypothesized that the prominence of boys is due to disruptive behaviour rather then actual learning issues.
There is a belief that a greater male presence within primary education would decrease the anti-school perspective that many boys have (Myhill & Jones, 2006). Additionally, the behaviours of boys would be improved if the culture within primary education was made more masculine. That is, “boys were indeed reprimanded more than girls, [and] girls’ misdemeanours often passed unnoticed or ignored” (Myhill & Jones, 2006, p. 102). Thus, an increase in male teachers would consequently lower the “disproportionate negative responses to boys” (Beaman et al., 2006, p. 362) and improve the overall environment of primary education. There are, perceptions that teachers have on boys and girls which causes for a negative opinion towards boys and a positive one for girls.
Furthermore, “teachers bring their beliefs and assumptions into the classroom with them, and these perceptions, consciously or unconsciously, manifest themselves in their own teaching practice” (Myhill & Jones, 2006, p. 110). These beliefs include viewing boys as a problem and girls as an ideal student. Furthermore, because of these beliefs, it is likely that girls will receive more attention then boys, especially that of positive attention. Specifically, boys receive an unfair amount of negative attention from teachers.
Receiving negative attention from teachers can reaffirm that a boy is not in his element within education. Male disaffection, Carrington and McPhee (2008) wrote, is bordering on a moral dilemma. That is, focusing on the opinions of boys, which is required considering the growing gender gaps in student achievement, and neglecting the results which are promoting females at a never seen before rate, could be deemed as sexist. However, changes are being made because “policy-makers have tended to assume that there is a casual relationship between the feminization of the teaching profession, the gender gap in achievement, and male disaffection from school” (Carrington & McPhee, 2008, p. 110). Thus, education reforms are focused on encouraging the development of male students.
Furthermore, studies have shown that children relate to teachers of the same gender (Carrington & McPhee, 2008). The feminization of primary education has additionally had an effect on “process of teaching and learning” (Carrington & McPhee, 2008, p. 110). That is, everything that a female brings to the classroom, be it teaching style, or the classroom layout, is having an effect on the students.
The addition of more men in the teaching profession would add needed father figures to children end need (Carrington & McPhee, 2008). This, would widen the experiences of boys within the classroom, as well as providing an encouraging positive role model. Keep in mind that every teacher, regardless of gender, is referred to as a role model. A gender model however can add a sense of encouragement for a young boy to follow through with positive academic behaviours.
Participants in the survey Carrington and McPhee (2008) conducted, suggest that there is a need of more men in primary schools. However, the opinions of why more men is necessary varied by gender. Females, for example, “were more likely to perceive an enhanced male presence in the sector, as being conductive to the maintenance of discipline, particularly in the early years” (Carrington & McPhee, 2008, p. 117).
Further observations from the study, as noted by Carrington and McPhee (2008), were that many teachers saw themselves “as symbols of academic achievement” (p. 117). Being a model of academic success could help encourage students to pursue academia. This is especially pertinent for male learners whom view education as feminine. That is, viewing more males at the front of the classroom would encourage students to believe that teaching, and consequently learning, are not female activities.
The feminization of education has created a more girl friendly environment which has resulted in the under-achievement of boys (Skelton, 2002). In addition to this, feminization “has created an alleged shift towards the privileging of female learning styles, assessment practices, modes of discipline, and so forth” (Skelton, 2002, p. 86). Furthermore, daily routines and management practices are becoming more and more feminine as fewer and fewer males enter the teaching profession.
An argument presented against feminization of education is presented by Skelton (2002) whom asserted that one would have to “assume that females only act in stereotypical feminine ways and males in stereotypical masculine ways” (p. 91). Furthermore, the term feminization assumes that an intentional shift has been created in order to favour females. This would be inaccurate considering the rate of men whom are members of administration or principals.
In addition to utilizing men as a means to model appropriate and desired educational outcomes for male students, males can provide a positive appearance of teaching as a whole (Skelton, 2002). That is, teaching is considered as women’s work and does not have a much higher status then babysitting.