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The Question

A popular (as in “a lot of people seem to believe it“) and recurring question around the “failing boys” discourse in education across many western societies (from Britain to America and Australia) is whether a lack of male role models, particularly in early-years education, is to blame.

The Answer

Supplied by Carrington, Francis, Hutchings, Skelton, Read and Halld (2007) “Does the gender of the teacher really matter? Seven- to eight-year-olds’ accounts of their interactions with their teachers“:

  • There’s little or no evidence the “feminization of teaching has an adverse effect on boys’ levels of academic motivation and engagement“.
  • The 7 and 8 year olds interviewed in the study gave little or no significance to the teacher’s gender. Around 2/3 of respondents replied negatively to the question: “Do you think it makes any difference whether you have a man or a lady teacher?”
  • Consistency, fairness and even-handedness were seen as more-important qualities than the teacher’s gender.
  • The vast majority of the interviewees saw the teacher’s gender as immaterial or inconsequential.
  • Although there were “higher levels of disaffection and recalcitrance among the boys” in the study, they found no evidence this was less “in classes taught by men than those taught by women“.
  • Only 13% of boys and 33% of girls identified teachers as “significant others” – and hence potential role models – in their lives. This suggests the “teachers as role models” argument doesn’t hold water. To compound matters, even this small number of boys did not see male teachers as more important than female teachers.
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