Close gender gap says Little Scholars founder, calling on men to step up for children
Men who shy away from early childhood education and care (ECEC) are missing out on the opportunity to not only make a significant difference in the life of a child, but also to participate in a rewarding career, Little Scholars Founder Jae Fraser said recently.
With 97 per cent of the ECEC workforce being female, Mr Fraser is calling for more men to step up and take their place as positive role models in the lives of children, saying that children need male role models to support them to build a sense of identity and to find their place in the world.
“After 18 years experience in early learning, I know that having gender balance in the educator force is so beneficial for shaping a well rounded future generation. Male educators bring unique qualities to the classroom,” Mr Fraser said.
Citing what he termed “fierce public debate” about the suitability of men caring for and educating young children, Mr Fraser expressed his disappointment about the lens through which society views men who choose ECEC as a career path.
“Children need a diverse learning experience; educators of both genders come with different viewpoints and perspectives that they can share, and it’s essential that children are exposed to healthy male-female interactions. Male educators can also really help children, especially boys, recognise the value of education. Seeing a male teacher simply reading during quiet time might change the student’s views on literacy,” he noted.
While inclusive inroads are being made in other areas of inclusion, Mr Fraser said not enough is being done in ECEC, with more work needed to change perceptions, and bring balance to the workforce.
“The biggest challenge is that the job isn’t perceived as legitimate or professional enough – it’s really the whole community that needs to start valuing not just male educators but all educators as professionals, and recognising them for their expertise and qualifications, instead of just seeing them as baby-sitters,” said Mr Fraser.
Mr Fraser is also passionate about changing attitudes so that men are respected for choosing to go into education, and says it is also up to families to be a part of the solution by encouraging men choosing study paths, or looking for work, to consider the sector.
Outlining the importance of the first five years in the life of a child, Mr Fraser said early childhood educators “actually have the most important job in our society and that needs to be reflected in culture and public perception”.
Eric Jackson, an educator employed at Little Scholars campus in Brisbane agreed that more needs to be done to improve the balance of genders in the early learning workforce advocating for other men to view it as a valid career choice.
“It’s a unique kind of work – very rewarding. You get to be a part of the child’s journey, see them growing and improving, and every day is different,” he said.
Mr Fraser is sharing his message because he is passionate about bringing more male educators into the ECEC sector, firmly believing in the “special dynamic” and rich learning experiences that men bring to the lives of children.
“The many years I spent working as an early education teacher were some of the best; they were so rewarding and enjoyable and now being an operator in this space, I’m really committed to ensuring we get that balance not only for the children but for all the men out there that may be missing out on an amazing career,” he concluded.