By Ng Jing Yng - Today - ChannelNewsAsia

In the woman-dominated industry of pre-school educators, Mr Patrick Magno – who teaches at Kinderland – is a rarity.

But the situation is gradually changing, according to pre-school operators.

NTUC First Campus, which operates more than 90 childcare centres in Singapore, now has seven male pre-school teachers. Three years ago, it had none.

According to a spokesperson, six of these male teachers were mid-career switchers who came on board after an in-house scheme was introduced to encourage people to join the industry. Its training arm sees about 10 male trainees every year.

The PAP Community Foundation (PCF) kindergarten centres have about 12 male teachers, while private operators such as EtonHouse and Kinderland employ a handful.

Said a PCF spokesperson: “We believe that male teachers are able to complement the role played by female teachers, just like in a family; we have a mother and a father.” Ruling out hiring men as teachers narrows the talent pool for capable teachers, she added.

EtonHouse International Education Group managing director Ng Gim Choo said men have proven to be capable for the pre-school profession and could act as role models for the boys.

However, they are generally not attracted to the early childhood profession – which traditionally draws more women – and hence do not greatly ease the manpower crunch, she said.

Prejudice against male pre-school teachers by parents, and the lack of awareness that childcare is also a profession for men, also keep their numbers low.

EtonHouse said some parents have expressed reservations as routine duties include bathing the children.

To address these concerns, some pre-school operators exclude male teachers from duties such as showering and toilet care and classes with male teachers have at least one other female teacher present, Male teachers are also only assigned to older age groups.

Mr Magno, 24, who said he has seen parents request a change of class for their children when they see a male teacher in previous jobs overseas, believed that staying professional will eventually dispel stereotypes.

“A competitive salary would not hurt in enticing more male teachers … (but) teaching is a calling and people who want to join the industry must have the passion and the right attitude,” he added.

Mr Jacob Tan, 23, who teaches at My First Skool under NTUC First Campus, said that he avoids one-on-one interaction with the children and does not hug or carry them.

“To express my love and care, I will use a gentler tone … this also teaches the kids that love can be expressed in different ways,” he said.