Male teachers bill too simplistic: ALP Senate report

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Male teachers bill too simplistic: ALP Senate report

A ‘simplistic’ approach to a ‘very complex’ problem is how the ALP describes the Federal Government’s solution to the shortage of male primary school teachers.

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A ‘simplistic’ approach to a ‘very complex’ problem is how the ALP describes the Federal Government’s solution to the shortage of male primary school teachers.

The Federal Government is attempting to change sex discrimination laws as a way to remedy the shortage of male primary school teachers. To achieve this end, it introduced the Sex Discrimination (Amendment) Teaching Profession Bill 2004 earlier this year.

The aim of the bill is to change discrimination laws and allow male student teachers to be offered teaching scholarships ahead of women.

However, Senate concern over the bill sent it to a Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee Inquiry. The committee’s majority report, along with dissenting reports, was tabled in Parliament this week.

ALP Senators

The ALP dissenting report concludes that long-term planning is required to resolve gender disparity in the classroom, not changes to the Sex Discrimination Act.

It is clear to the ALP that there is not enough evidence to suggest that male teachers are discriminated against and require special treatment under the Sex Discrimination Act.

Evidence presented to the committee supports the view that the lack of male teachers is the result of perceived lower status and poor salary and career opportunities, rather then discrimination against men.

‘There is insufficient evidence to show that there is structural discrimination against males entering or remaining in the teaching profession,’ the dissenting ALP report said.

‘Similarly, there is no evidence which suggests that increasing the number of male teachers will enhance educational outcomes for boys, nor that the perceived lack of role models for boys in schools is in any way linked to their educational outcomes.’

According to the ALP, providing scholarships to men and not women won’t resolve the problem because the cost of studying teaching at university is not the reason why there are so few male teachers. Perceptions concerning the status of the teaching profession, along with salary levels, need addressing before teaching becomes an attractive career option for men.

The ALP noted that the Commonwealth itself had conceded in its ‘Boys: Getting it right’ report that scholarships as a means of addressing gender imbalance were inappropriate.

Also, in light of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission granting the Catholic Education office an exemption under the Sex Discrimination Act to provide equal number of scholarships to male and female teachers, the bill is no longer needed, the ALP report said. 

‘By requiring the CEO to grant an equal number of male and female scholarships, the CEO was given the power to ensure a guaranteed number of males would be given scholarships. This was achieved without undermining the principle of equality that is protected by the act.’

Interestingly, evidence to the committee also revealed that gender had little impact on the educational outcomes of boys and girls; rather it was poor quality teaching and learning opportunities.

Government senators

Although the Government Senators note concerns about the proposed bill’s effectiveness, their number one recommendation is that the bill proceeds. However, they include a proviso that the bill be subject to a review in two years.

Their number two recommendation does go further, supporting ‘the implementation of additional broader strategies and programs by the Commonwealth Government and state/territory governments in order to address the complex and long-term issues relating to the gender imbalance in the teaching profession.’

The Bill is currently being debated in the Senate. It passed through the House on 29 March.

For a copy of the Government and dissenting reports got to the Parliament House website.

For transcripts of the Senate debate go to the Parlinfo website.

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