. . . The whining schoolboy with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school. – William Shakespeare
There are just not enough male schoolteachers, says Captain Errol Brathwaite. And it won’t be the first time the utterance has been made by an educator.
The new principal of Ellerslie Secondary School is understandably concerned about this insufficiency of male elders, and its negative effect on the rearing of our boys. More minds are coming around to the notion that male schoolteachers, especially at the primary level, are vital role models for boys.
It has not been unknown of Barbadian men to boast that a male teacher had been the one they had sought to copy in their school and adult lives – their tutor having displayed exemplary characteristics outside the classwork context.
A survey commissioned by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), which is responsible for the training of teachers and other school staff in England, found pretty much that Englishmen felt the same.
The poll of 800 plus men looked at the impact of male teachers specifically in primary school boys’ development. More than a third (35 per cent) of men felt that having a male primary teacher inspired them to work harder at school.
It was also found that male teachers were more approachable. Half the men surveyed were more likely to approach a male teacher about bullying, a nigh number (49 per cent) were more likely to approach them about problems with schoolwork, 29 per cent with problems at home and 24 per cent with questions about puberty.
This survey was commissioned at a time – late 2008 – when the TDA had mounted a campaign across England urging more men to consider teaching.
A year later one in four primary schools in England was still without a male teacher. Some 4 587 primary schools – more than a quarter – boasted female teachers only.
Part of the problem in England is that primary school teaching has been increasingly seen as a feminine career; and men have shied away from it; furthermore they fear being accused of paedophilia.
But experts insist it is important for boys to have positive male role models as they grow up. For many, the lack of male teachers in primary school has meant no regular contact with an adult man until the age of 11 when they go to secondary school. And the lack is worsened if the child grows up in a single-parent home devoid of a father figure.
The survey just might have been done here. Captain Brathwaite makes the point that females dominate the Barbadian school system, the Cub Scouts, the Boy Scouts. Where indeed are our men?
We concur that male teachers are urgently needed as role models for our boys, particularly in their early years. But equally important they need their fathers as a positive influence too.