at ‘peace’ Mass
Review sought on male teacher ruling
By Damir Govorcin
The Catholic Education Office wants the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to have another look at its decision not to allow the office to offer special inducements to attract more male teachers into Catholic primary schools.
The Catholic Education Office had applied for a temporary exemption from the provisions in the Sex Discrimination Act (1984) to allow it to discriminate in favour of men by offering some primary teachers training scholarships that give preferential treatment to male students.
The main aim of the proposed scholarship scheme was to redress the shortage of male teachers in primary schools so that students could have more male role models.
Br Kelvin Canavan, executive director of schools for the Sydney archdiocese, says that fewer than 10 per cent of teachers in primary schools are males.
“I was surprised by the commission’s decision,” he says, “but we will continue to look for ways of attracting more males to the teaching profession.
“Principals I have spoken to are anxious to have a balance of both male and female teachers. Most primary schools only have one or two male teachers.
“In the past five years, 80 per cent of such scholarships have been taken up by women.
“We weren’t looking to stop women from receiving such scholarships, but trying to redress the balance.
“We will be seeking a review of the decision.”
Br Kelvin says that while he agrees with the commission that the reasons fewer males choose to teach in primary schools are complex, the problem of attracting male teachers into primary schools persists.
“Parents look to education authorities to provide the best opportunities possible for their children, which is influenced in part by appropriate role models of both genders in the classroom,” he says.
“There are a number of reasons why it’s difficult to recruit young men into the teaching profession.
“You have the perceived lack of status teachers have in the community. They also feel there is better opportunity for advancement in the commercial world, and there are the differences in salary levels.
“The changes to the child protection legislation have also caused concern among teachers.”
Br Kelvin says he fails to see how giving priority to males over females on a temporary basis can be judged as being “unreasonable”.
“Redressing the gender imbalance in primary schools could only have beneficial effects for students in the long term,” he says.
“In the final analysis, this needs to be a community decision. If parents want more males in primary schools, they need to let the Human Rights Commission know their views.”