The Teacher Gender Ratio
Across the country, teaching is considered to be an overwhelmingly female profession, and in fact has become more so over time. In India, teachers constitute the third largest workforce among white-collared employees. Interestingly, this is a world-wide phenomenon, and not just restricted to India. Feminization in the teaching fraternity has taken place across the world and the clearly perceptible skew in the teacher gender ratio is the one fact that sticks out like a sore thumb.
Out of the country’s 64 lakh school teachers, 29 lakh are women. From 20 women teachers per 100 men teachers in the 1950s, the ratio has leaped to 90 women teachers per 100 men teachers in the country now, according to the Ministry of Human Resource development figures. In urban India, women teachers have outnumbered men long back, with many big schools having just 5-10% male teachers. The percentage of women teachers in schools has been increasing steadily in recent years. The major change in the gender ratio was seen after liberalization. Between 1991 and 2014, female-to-male teacher ratio rose from 41 to 88 in primary schools and 44 to 90 in senior secondary schools, ministry figures say.
Reasons Behind the Change in the Teacher Gender Ratio
Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries in India, women started entering the teaching profession in fairly large numbers. The reasons are not far to seek. After liberalization, government policies increased the enrollment of girls in school and decided to have at least one female teacher in every primary school. To further this goal, many teacher training centers were set up exclusively for women and female teachers were given incentives to work in remote areas. Additionally, even societal beliefs and practices tend to support the entry of women into teaching. Teaching is considered to be a suitable profession for women because it is seen to be less demanding with shorter hours than many other jobs. As a result of societal values and government policies, the teacher gender ratio is considerably skewed towards the women.
The Women-Specific Factors
Teaching is believed to be ideal for combining paid work and household responsibilities, given the long vacations and shorter hours than most other white collar professions. Women teachers love the profession as it is dignified and helps them balance family and work. The convenience of this job is the most attractive feature. Also, tolerance, motherly affection, discipline and teaching go hand-in-hand with women. This is the reason why more and more women are taking up teaching as a career. And this profession now pays well also.
Why Don’t Men Become Teachers?
In most cases, the male teacher these days is only a PT trainer, music teacher or the one who drills maths into you. Teaching requires men who are sensitive, family-oriented, and considerate, which are qualities that come naturally to women. Also, the negative perception of teaching as a career is discouraging men from entering the classroom – and that this, in turn, is having a detrimental effect on the ratio. There seems to be an attitude among many that if a man joins the profession, he is just there to scale the steps towards headship. The reality, however, is very different. Teaching is a tough, tough profession and, the best teachers are not classified by their gender.
So, when the ‘misses’ outnumber the ‘sirs’ so strikingly, there is clearly a problem in the classroom. But how do we fix the problem? To begin with, we should all make an intensive effort to change the perception of teaching as a whole and show our educators the reverence they are due. Otherwise the world runs the risk of being left with no male teachers at all. Sincere steps should be taken to recruit women into school and college teaching and make it an attractive prospect to men. The world needs to break free from the gender stereotypes in the classroom and women need to be encouraged to take up leadership positions in education. If such measures are taken up seriously and consistently, in the next ten to fifteen years, we will be able to bring about greater gender equity in the teaching profession.