If you think only women are interested in teaching kindergarten kids, it’s time to think the opposite.

More than 10,000 men in East China’s Jiangsu province have reportedly applied for a five-year training program to teach in preschools. But the program, conducted by three normal colleges in Nanjing, can only enroll 300.

Over the weekend, applicants underwent a grilling six-part interview to test their physical condition (20 marks), Mandarin speaking ability (20 marks), musical talent (20 marks), fine art and dancing skills (30 marks), and psychological condition (10 marks).

Only those who scored higher than 60 marks in the interview went through to the next round.

“We hope the program can train more male kindergarten teachers to balance out the almost all-women workforce,” said an admissions officer at Nanjing Normal College for Preschool Education, one of the three colleges running the program.

As of now, less than 1 percent of kindergarten teachers in Jiangsu province are men, he said.

In the past, people could not imagine a man fitting into a kindergarten environment and there was a strong social bias against men teaching at such establishments, he said.

But Li Lijun, a 15-year-old applicant from Taizhou, has decided to break the norm.

“Although my friends and classmates called me a sissy when I told them I’m applying for this program, I believe I made the right choice,” he said.

“I will feel honored to teach kindergarten students.”

A striking advantage of male teachers is they can provide better protection to the students in case of an emergency.

The consideration is beginning to weigh heavily in the minds of parents following a spate of violent, at times fatal, attacks on preschool children in the past two months.

According to the rules of the program, candidates shorter than 160 cm or taller than 185 cm are not eligible for admission.

“A teacher who is too tall depresses kids, and that’s not good for smooth communications,” an unnamed admissions official was quoted as saying by local media.

“And he can’t be too short either, because it defeats the very purpose of a male teacher.”

Some applicants are not really attracted to the teaching occupation, but more to the “profits” the program brings.

According to the application guide, selected applicants’ fees and accommodation costs during the five-year course will be taken care of. And each student will get an annual stipend of 10,000 yuan.

The Jiangsu provincial government, which is funding the program, has also promised to ensure the students get jobs in local public kindergartens once they have completed the course.