SINGAPORE - Pick any primary school and you are almost bound to find that it is led by a woman. Out of Singapore's 191 primary schools last year, three-quarters have female principals, going by the latest data from the Ministry of Education (MOE).
Women also outnumber men among the 15,000 primary school teachers - more than eight out of 10 are female.
The dominance of women is similar to other countries such as Britain and Australia, where the teaching profession is overwhelmingly dominated by females.
The disparity is most pronounced at the primary school level, 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 were unsure about physical contact with children and what is considered inappropriate.
The numbers are less skewed when it comes to teaching older students. Six out of 10 teachers in secondary schools and junior colleges are women. About 50 per cent to 60 per cent of principals in secondary schools and junior colleges are women.
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 that the best candidates, regardless of background, are always recruited for the position," said a spokesman.
Educators agreed, saying that gender is not a factor that determines whether a person gets a teaching job. Instead, 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, rather than going by gender."
Educators said it is not surprising that teaching tends to attract more women and the imbalance does not bother them.
Mr Razali Senin, vice-principal of Endeavour Primary School, said: "The numbers will tell you there are more females, but I don't feel very different."
Madam Rasidah Rahim, principal of Queenstown Secondary School, 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 during the early years, while males are better equipped to provide support during the adolescent years."
But he noted that male educators "provide a balance in the service as they can be positive role models for male students and can provide the paternal stewardship necessary to balance the school culture".
Having a teaching workforce that is diverse - in gender, race, religion - adds value to the learning experience of students, educators said, adding that they also see that teaching is not work only for women.
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 and are exposed to both gender roles."
About 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, who chose to start his teaching career in a primary school, said: "Having both genders in a school has benefits. 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 the teachers at her school 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 and, as far as possible, we want it to be as close to society.
"Having male teachers in my school enriches discussions with differing viewpoints, and it complements female teachers," she added.
Parents with young children said that they are not bothered that most of their teachers are women.
Madam Jeanie Tan, 31, an administrative staff, said her son, who will be in Primary 3 next year, does not have a preference. “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 Primary 2 daughter in a girls’ school, and a son going to 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.”