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NEW FIGURES RELEASED by the European Union have suggested that Ireland is above average when it comes to the gender imbalance among teachers in primary and secondary education.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) is urging the government to take action to address this disparity, as it says a mix of male and female teachers will benefit children and their development.
Almost nine out of every 10 (87%) teachers at primary level, and more than seven in 10 (71%) at post-primary level, are female according to EU figures. In real terms, this means that only around 4,400 of the 32,200 teachers at primary level across the country are men.
Ireland is slightly above average in terms of female representation at primary level, compared to the EU average of 85%. Only Italy and Austria feature higher than Ireland in terms of female teachers in primary education.
The gender imbalance in post-primary education is wider, with only Italy higher than Ireland compared to the average of 64% across the EU.
The proportion of men in primary education has declined significantly in recent decades, down from approximately 40% in the 1970s.
Peter Mullan, from the INTO, told TheJournal.ie: “We believe it [gender divisions in teaching] is something that the Government needs to look at. Children would certainly benefit from having both male and female role models in the classroom from a young age.”
Mullan highlights that an advertising campaign to highlight the attractiveness of the profession for men would be a welcome step, as would working with guidance counselors at second level education to promote teaching.
“We need to do more research on what dissuades men from becoming teachers,” he added.
Moira Leydon, Education and Research Officer for the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, indicates that while Ireland is “not unique” in terms of the gender profile of the profession, it is the quality of teaching that is of primary importance.
She says: “Quality in teaching is critical to the quality of education in the classroom. Quality in teaching is influenced by many factors including high quality initial teacher education and regular opportunities for professional development over the teaching career.
“Factors such as the status of the profession and its attractiveness to graduates are also critical. In this context, the persistence of unequal pay structures for newly qualified teachers is of deep concern to the ASTI as it is demoralising our new teachers.”
TheJournal.ie has asked the Department of Education for comment on the figures.