The importance of men in early education

University of South Australia

Wednesday, 07 February, 2024

The importance of men in early education

A national childhood workforce strategy is needed to encourage more men into early learning professions, according to education experts.

The lack of male teachers and carers in early childhood education is a challenge globally, with men comprising only 4% of the early childhood education and care workforce in OECD countries. It’s a growing issue that adds to Australia’s national teacher shortage.

The call for a new strategy by education experts at the University of South Australia is part of the newly launched Mindaroo Thrive by Five Dads’ Alliance Action Plan for the Early Years, which aims to support fathers to take a more active role in their children’s lives.

“The first five years of a child’s life are critical to healthy development, and it’s vital that children receive the best quality of care during these early years,” said UniSA’s Dr Martyn Mills-Bayne.

“A key part of this is ensuring that children are cared for by healthy and positive role models — which includes both men and women.

“Yet in childcare and early education settings, men are vastly underrepresented. And this can be to the detriment of children. Having access to positive interactions between men and women supports young children’s healthy development in all areas.

“Centre-based care is highly regulated to ensure quality education and care is provided for all children who attend.

“What is missing, however, is the access to a gender diverse early childhood workforce where young children have opportunities to experience rich relationships with male educators, and the day-to-day interactions between men, women and non-binary educators that they might otherwise miss out on.

“The early years are critical to children’s healthy growth in all areas of development, and a diverse gender profile in the early years’ workforce adds to the rich potential for children to see themselves reflected in the adults who educate and care for them in structured early learning.”

According to Mills-Bayne, there is a need to do more to encourage men into early learning and childcare positions.

“Young children can benefit enormously from male teachers and carers in early childhood settings,” he said.

“Not only can men often provide increased opportunities for children to engage in ‘rough-and-tumble’ play, or to get involved in messy play and take risks, but they also represent much-needed healthy and caring role models.

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