by Julieanne Strachan

Canberra, Australia has the smallest proportion of male teachers in the country and their numbers are in decline, with less than a quarter of educators in government schools now men.

Parents’ groups say the disparity is worrying because children may be missing out on the benefits of having male role models in the classroom and losing out on the teaching styles men bring to the profession.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data, requested by the Sunday Canberra Times, shows the proportion of male teachers in ACT independent and government schools has fallen from a combined 30.63 percent in 1993 to 25.71 percent in 2009.

The secretary of the Australian Education Union ACT branch, Penny Gilmour, said pay would be an important factor in turning men away from working in Canberra schools. ”I think that teaching has become a less attractive option for men over the years for a range of reasons; one is clearly salary options,” she said.

”The biggest nearby labour market for teachers is NSW and teachers are better paid there.”

The Department of Education and Training’s 2009-10 annual report showed government schools had even fewer men than the territory overall, with the ratio of male to female staff at 22 percent to 78 percent, which has remained constant for the past two years.

However, in spite of the imbalance, the department has no plan to encourage more men into the ranks of teaching.

”The DET’s focus is on recruiting quality teachers, rather than specifically targeting men,” a spokesman said.

ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations president Elizabeth Singer said students benefited from seeing men and women working together co-operatively at school.

”The P and C council believes male teachers bring an important dimension to schools in their teaching styles, and not only that, but in terms of reflecting our society and the balance of men and women outside school.

”I think the problem for the ACT may be that because of the competitiveness in the labour market, males with degrees find they can get higher salaries elsewhere.”

A spokesman for the Education Department conceded that teachers’ pay in the territory was lower than in NSW, but said there were other perks.