Three-quarters of primary schools are led by women

Madam Rasidah Rahim, principal of Queenstown Secondary, where half of the teachers are men.
Madam Rasidah Rahim, principal of Queenstown Secondary, where half of the teachers are men.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN
Mr Lim Meng Wei, principal of Pei Chun Public School, says he focuses on what he can bring to the education system and leverages the strengths of his female colleagues. Some 30 per cent to 40 per cent of teachers in his school are men.
Mr Lim Meng Wei, principal of Pei Chun Public School, says he focuses on what he can bring to the education system and leverages the strengths of his female colleagues. Some 30 per cent to 40 per cent of teachers in his school are men.PHOTOS: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES, BERITA HARIAN FILE

More than 80% of teachers there are women too, MOE data shows

Pick any primary school, and chances are it is led by a woman.

Of Singapore's 191 primary schools last year, three-quarters had women principals, going by the latest data from the Education Ministry.

Similarly, more than 80 per cent of the nearly 15,000 teachers in primary schools were women.

This is similar to other countries such as Britain and Australia, where the teaching profession is overwhelmingly dominated by women.

The disparity is most pronounced in primary schools, where working with younger children is often seen as a woman's job, as some research has shown. Overseas studies have also found that men are unsure about what kind of physical contact with children is appropriate.

The numbers are less skewed when it comes to teaching older students: Women made up about 60 per cent or more of teachers in secondary schools and junior colleges here, and some 50 per cent to 60 per cent of principals at those levels.

In response to queries, the MOE said it hires all educators and staff "based on their ability to do the job, regardless of gender, race or age". "This ensures the best candidates, regardless of background, are always recruited for the position."

Educators agreed, saying that passion and commitment are the key qualities that the profession needs.

Mr Sekaran Chinna Govanden, Opera Estate Primary's head of department for physical education and co-curricular activities, said: "It's the best man for the job."

Mr Lim Meng Wei, principal of Pei Chun Public School, says he focuses on what he can bring to the education system and leverages the strengths of his female colleagues. Some 30 per cent to 40 per cent of teachers in his school are men.
Mr Lim Meng Wei, principal of Pei Chun Public School, says he focuses on what he can bring to the education system and leverages the strengths of his female colleagues. Some 30 per cent to 40 per cent of teachers in his school are men. PHOTOS: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Educators said that it is not surprising teaching tends to attract more women, but the imbalance does not bother them. Madam Rasidah Rahim, principal of Queenstown Secondary, said: "Teaching is very nurturing, which may come more naturally to women."

Mr Balamurugan Krishnasamy, principal of SIM International Academy, said: "Women are better inclined to provide the duty of care at the lower years, while males are better equipped to provide support for the adolescent years."

But he noted that male educators "provide a balance in the service as they can be positive role models for the male students and can provide the paternal stewardship necessary to balance the school culture".

Having a teaching workforce that is diverse - in gender, race and religion - adds value to the learning experience of students, educators said, adding that teaching is not work only for women.

GOOD BALANCE ENRICHES DISCUSSIONS

It's a very good balance because I believe that school is a place for students to first socialise - it's a microcosm of society; as far as possible, we want it to be as close to society... Having male teachers in my school enriches discussions with differing viewpoints.

MADAM RASIDAH RAHIM, principal of Queenstown Secondary, where half of the teachers are men.

Mr Lim Meng Wei, principal of Pei Chun Public School, said: "Male educators can provide more balance and share fathers' perspectives as children grow up."

Some 30 per cent to 40 per cent of teachers in his school are men.

"I focus on what I can bring to the education system, and leverage the strengths of my female colleagues," said Mr Lim.

Mr Razali Senin, vice-principal of Endeavour Primary School, who chose to start teaching in a primary school, said: "Some children open up more to females and others relate to males. Both genders add value to each other when put together for a common purpose.

"Primary school is the foundation stage, and a lot of what you can do at this level is helping kids get it right so they can navigate through secondary school and beyond."

Madam Rasidah said that half of her school's teachers are men. "It's a very good balance because I believe that school is a place for students to first socialise - it's a microcosm of society; as far as possible, we want it to be as close to society ."

 
 

She added: "Having male teachers in my school enriches discussions with differing viewpoints."

Parents said they are not bothered that most teachers are women.

Madam Jeanie Tan, 31, who is an administrative staff member, has a son who will be in Primary 3 next year. She said: "Most of his teachers are female, except for PE, which he enjoys because he's very active, just like his teacher... But whether male or female, as long as the teacher is committed and enjoys teaching, I don't mind."

Housewife Karen Chen, 35, who has a daughter in Primary 2 in a girls' school, and a son in Primary 1 next year, said: "I'm OK with male or female teachers, it doesn't really matter... It's also good for the teaching force to have some balance. After all, my daughter can't always be in an all-girls environment as she grows up."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2017, with the headline 'Three-quarters of primary schools are led by women'. Print Edition | Subscribe