When male role models in school are important

Mr Omar Azahari Mohammed Ali and Mr Sekaran Chinna Govanden are among 18 male teachers in Opera Estate Primary School, which has a total of nearly 70 teachers.
Mr Omar Azahari Mohammed Ali and Mr Sekaran Chinna Govanden are among 18 male teachers in Opera Estate Primary School, which has a total of nearly 70 teachers.PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

For boys, affirmation from male teachers can have more impact, said Mr Sekaran Chinna Govanden.

"Especially in PE... if a teacher tells a boy he can dribble well, he can shoot well, he's fit, it's a boost in self-esteem and confidence for him," said the head of department for physical education and co-curricular activities at Opera Estate Primary School.

Male teachers can be role models for both young boys and girls, he said.

Mr Omar Azahari Mohammed Ali, discipline master at the same school, said: "Kids see you as a father figure... and a role model in the way you dress (and) talk to them."

The mathematics and science teacher added: "In the past, male teachers were typically seen as disciplinarians, but increasingly, they can be firm and nurturing at the same time.

"I know some boys like football, so I use that as a starting point for conversations to relate to them. Once they trust you, they will listen to you."

 
 

Mr Omar and Mr Sekaran are among 18 male teachers in the primary school, which has a total of nearly 70 teachers.

They believe that it is a matter of time before more men teach at primary schools.

"There is a cultural shift - fathers today are more involved in the early years of childhood, from changing diapers to carrying babies. We see many of them come with their children on the first day of school too," said Mr Sekaran.

"There is a blurring of expected societal norms and, similarly, it will take another generation to change the stereotype that teaching in primary schools is for women."

Amelia Teng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2017, with the headline 'When male role models in school are important'. Print Edition | Subscribe