The (very simple) case for men in Early Childhood

Whenever I tell people that I’m involved in Early Childhood Education, they generally give me odd looks. This is generally compounded by the fact that I wear a suit everyday for work. Looking at what I wear, people are more inclined to believe that I’m involved in some large corporate business dealing in international trade and corporate finance. Which is also not entirely wrong, it’s just the industry is Early Childhood.

We need more males in Early Childhood education. In my first post (Welcome to FIKIR Daddy) I promised to say more about this. I’m going to make my (very simple) case for it now. I’ll admit, I don’t interact with children much, and in my career in this industry, I rarely have had direct interactions with children. But I’m still of the view that there needs to be a lot more males in this industry with that direct interaction with children.

In the college I used to run, our only program was a diploma in early childhood education. We trained people who wanted to be kindergarten teachers or nursery care-providers. In the 10+ years there, the average male intake was about 5-8% of the student population. I spoke to other colleges and universities running similar programs and saw the same. I went around the world; England, USA, Australia, Finland, South Africa, and everywhere I went, I saw the same thing. The workforce for this particular industry has a male participation rate of between 3-8%. Kindergartens tend to have a bit more males (closer to the 8%), while childcare centres which usually have younger children (aged 0-4 years or so), would have a lower number (around the 3% mark). Once we get into the higher levels of education, meaning primary, secondary and tertiary level education, this number does increase, with some countries having a majority of male teachers as well.

The fact remains, though, that in the early years, it is predominantly females. I feel that this is way too imbalanced and we need more males in these formative years. I’ll give a simple reason, based on the fact that I’m a father. As much as I want to spend time with my kids, I find it harder and harder to do, because of that worst of 4-letter words, work. On a normal work day, I’ll see my kids for an hour in the morning before we go out for the day, and I’ll be at home by about 6pm or so. My kids are usually in bed by 8, so that means another 2 hours. So that makes a grand total of 3 hours per day that I get to spend with them. Yes, I do have the weekends, but there are so many things going on then as well, that sometimes, it works out to 4-5 hours per day I get as well.

So the question, then, is this, “What male role-model do they have?” This is the crux of it all; the positive male role-model. And this is important for both boys and girls, as they  need to have that positive model at an early age to show how a man should be, how he should act, the things he should and shouldn’t be doing. I’m not denying that the father does play a large role here, but the more positive role-models the child gets, the better it is, especially if the parents are busy at work.

I’ve heard some of the arguments against it, with a lot of them centered on safety concerns. The thought of a male taking a female child to the toilet cannot compute. If that’s the case, why is it ok for a female teacher to take a male child to the toilet? Sexual abuse comes up as well, but I have seen females sexually abusing children as well. No, I feel that these are biased and sexist views and I think that the benefits outweigh the cons.

So, how do we get more males in ECCE? First, as a community, we need to realise the importance of having males in ECCE. Then, we must “de-sexualise” and “de-fiminise” the role of care-giver. Even as parents, the father needs to play a large role in childcare. Fathers need to spend more time with their kids, doing even the simplest of things, like making breakfast, reading stories, playing games. Only when we accept that fathers have an equally important role to play in childcare, will we really see more men in this industry. It won’t happen overnight, but it needs to happen, and the quicker, the better.

Father reading to kids-min
Story time with the kids.

 

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