Thursday, March 11, 2004

What's Going On?

I was interested to see the issue of "not enough male teachers in our schools" pop up recently. Apparently only 1 in 5 primary school teachers, and less than half high school teachers, are male. The argument is that the teaching profession needs to be more gender-balanced, as boys need male role models and influences, and this is evidenced by the fact that boys are apparently falling behind girls academically. To fix this problem, the Federal Government has introduced to Parliament a proposed amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act, to allow scholarships for teaching to be offered to men only. The Bill was introduced in the House of Reps yesterday by Phillip Ruddock - you can read his Second Reading Speech here (at p 7).

I don't disagree that we need more male teachers - but this proposed amendment makes me really angry. Why should men receive a financial advantage over women to encourage them to become teachers?? How can this but devalue females in the teaching profession?? This doesn't address the root of the problem - as discussed in this article, one of the basic reasons that men don't enter or stick around the teaching profession is because they can earn more money elsewhere. And this results from teaching being viewed as a "female" profession, one which doesn't require as much skill as the traditionally male professions. Surely a better response would be to consider paying ALL teachers what they really deserve - I think it is generally accepted that teachers are grossly underpaid. But because women have been willing to work for the low salary that teachers receive, this isn't seen as an issue, and raising salaries generally is not even considered. Instead, the easy (and cheaper) solution is to amend the Sex Discrimination Act to allow this blatant discrimination, and to begin to erode the principles behind the SDA, and any credence attached to it.

Does the government intend to allow scholarship schemes to encourage women to enter traditionally male dominated professions?? Surely it is equally important that women are equally represented, for example, in Parliament?? After all, women constitute slightly more than 50% of Australia's population - isn't it imperative, then, that to have a truly representative democracy, around 50% of parliamentarians are female?? So where is the program to financially encourage women to run for election??

I’m not advocating special financial assistance for women to promote their entry into professions where they are underrepresented - I think that the price of education, available scholarships, job availability and promotions should not be dependent on gender. But the lack of women in certain professions IS a real problem. It concerns me that addressing the shortage of male teachers has taken such priority with the government, yet it is not an issue that women are acutely underrepresented in so many professions, and are *still* being paid significantly less than men across the board.

Grrr, makes me so angry!!!

*steps down off soap box*


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