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The discourse of gender in education is multifaceted; it spans topics such as the role of single sex/coed schools, gender bias to students and specific subject areas, role model issues, gender equity and the age old discussion of the different learning abilities and teaching styles between the genders. Arising from these topics I seek to discuss the role of teacher gender on male student achievement. Globally, teacher gender and its impact on the education of students is selective topic of research. the intrigue of how the difference in gender can affect the academic outcome of students both male and female has sparked concern by governments and policy makers, altered curriculum structures and provoked changes in teaching styles. International reports such as UNCESCO (2000, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2011), United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (2000), Dakar Declaration (2000) and many non-governmental organizations are keen in promoting the global initiative of Education for All. In this initiative, gender research is of great importance and a subset of this is based on teacher gender and student achievement.
The focus within these reports is comprised of many subsets, one of them being the spiraling concern for male underachievement and its synergy with teacher gender. There are a number of countries especially in the Western Hemisphere that research this lack of male academic achievement (Hawley and Reichert, 2010). Though there are reports on these issues of male underachievement and teacher gender it is still ambiguous to state a definite position. Further research into the issue, as within this paper, is needed to create a greater perspective and increase the wealth on information.
The layout I intend for this paper is to first critically examine two underlying assumptions the first being there may or may not be an apparent link between a teachers' gender and male student achievement, and the second being the spiraling issues of male underachievement. Using the research literature I hope shed some light on theory of the "feminization" of education which is correlated to the first assumption. The "feminization" of education stems from the growing concern of the inadequacy of male teachers in the service and its residual effect on male student achievement. I will define the term underachievement and discuss male underachievement along with its relevant research literature. Finally I will add my personal experiences encountered and come to an overall conclusion and offer any recommendations to topic of teacher gender and male student achievement
Linking gender and male achievement
The effect of teacher gender on male achievement is currently being researched at various sectors in education. We must first look at the relevance of research into gender education and then its sub grouping, teacher gender.
Fennell and Arnot (2008) says, "one of the most important catalyst for establishing gender education and development as a new scholarly arena is the increased involvement of international organizations in gender education policy making" (p.2). They stated that the tendency for this began in the 1900s and was considerably enhanced by the publication of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000. These goals were developed to reduce poverty across the globe through education. The MDGs also established the legitimacy of talking about gender equality in relation to education" (Fennell and Arnot, 2008,). This project by the United Nations was combined with the Dakar Declaration (2000) that pledges to achieve Education for All. Both the MDGs and the Dakar Declaration provided yardsticks to establish the current status of gender education equality in each nation and assess their progress (Fennell and Arnot, 2008, p.3).
The equality of gender in education is looked at heavily, since the number of male teachers in profession has diminished considerably. It is described as the "feminization" of the system, so there is a lack of male teachers and role models (Neugebauer et. al 2010). Catherine (2003), Carrington et al (2007)and Riordan (1990), have shown there is a lack of male teachers entering the profession, hence sparking concern by governments and policy-makers to fill this void. Davis (2003) notes, "that male school teachers are rear especially in the primary schools"(p.25). Haskyitz (2011) says in an NEA report of America indicates that there are 785,151 male teachers in public elementary and secondary schools across the nation, compared to 2.4 million women. Most states report well under 30 percent of all teachers are male and most are around 25 percent (Haskyitz, 2011).
Countries including England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA and Finland have voiced concerns about this critique of teacher gender on male student achievement (Carrington et al 2007). There are several debates on the view that feminization of schooling has a negative impact on the educational performance of boys. Part of the debate says there is a lack of male role models resulting in a situation in which boys are unsure about their identity, lack clear patterns of gender role orientation and r are unable to form positive ideas of masculinity (Neugebauer et. al 2010). Therefore this pushes the hypothesis that males students perform better when taught by a teacher of the same sex.
Studies have shown this hypothesis to be valid where the achievement of male students has been attributed to the influence of male teacher's presence. Neugebauer (2010) empirically cites Dee (2005 & 2007), to show that boys have higher skills when taught by a same-sex teacher. The potential existence of a "role model" effect implies that a student will have improved intellectual engagement, conduct and academic performance when assigned to a same-gender teacher (Dee, 2005). Boys need that positive reinforcement from a male figure, the feeling of; 'What it means to be male?' This aspect of being can only be truly related through the presence of a male. Women have a useful role to play in teaching this also through their experiences of men as husbands and partners and sons, but only to a point (West, 2002). George (2009) shows a local perspective by citing Parry's (1997&2004) comments on the lack of male teachers in Jamaica being a threat to the development of male sex/gender identity.
Continuing the discourse, control of the classroom is an essential element for learning to occur. Boys are two to three times more likely to be disruptive, inattentive and unlikely to complete their homework therefore a strong male presence is needed to curb this indiscipline and encourage learning (Dee, 2006). Looking at the NELS data, Dee (2006) , shows when a class is headed by a woman, boys are more likely to be seen as disruptive and report that they did not look forward to the subject. . Diefenbach & Klein (2002) says "female teachers are more "upset" with such types of behaviour than male teachers because their standards of judgment are derived from their own gender-specific socialization"(as cited in Neugebauer, 2010, p.5 ). In other words, one might say there is a certain mismatch between the "habitus" of female teachers and the "habitus" of male students (Neugebauer, 2010, p.5).
Though these statistics and reports show that there may be an effect of the teacher gender on male student achievement, other researchers have contradicted such claims. Chudgar and Sankar (2008) cites Krieg (2000) who used a large-sample base in the United States to show that regardless of student gender, students taught by women perform better than those taught by men. UNESCO (2000 & 2005) reports show women teachers have a positive effect on boys achievement. These findings show that a class taught by a male does not always attain success but it also reveals that the female teacher is a source of inspiration and encouragement to the male student populous. The 'feminization' of education is not seen as threat, but more as indifference. These studies pointed to the real goal of achievement may lie within a student's genetics, socio-economic status, subject choices, teacher practices and the learning patterns of the male student. . This led me to look at the role of the female teacher as the contradiction to the hypothesis that male students perform better when taught by a teacher of the same sex.
There are several cases of male achievement when taught by females. Driessen (2007), Krieg (2005) and UNESCO (2005) on their studies collectively state, "teacher gender has no effect on student achievement, attitudes, or behavior" (as cited in Chudgar and Sankar ,2008, p. 628). In these research papers one fundamental reason for the male achievement was the teacher's practices and not their gender. it squarely depended on the teachers ability to deliver the lesson accurately and effectively. Chudgar and Sankar (2008) highlighted that the female teacher has different teaching styles from their male counterparts. The female teacher creates a more student oriented style of teaching, and also tend to have more liberal views about letting the students define and identify their own learning experiences and learning styles (Chudgar and Sankar 2008 cited by Lacey, Saleh and Gorman 1998).
Learning is dependent on the subject's environment, as stated by the psychologist Vygotsky. This theory can be linked to the success rate of the male students in the UNESCO 2000 report. The report was based on the study of four countries; Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan statistically showing female primary school teachers as more effective. Their children said that the environment created by the female teachers was open and more comfortable to interact with than male teachers (UNESCO 2000).
The issue of male underachievement
The second assumption is that, there may be a spiraling level of male under achievement. We must start our response by asking, what is the definition of achievement that is used as the measuring stick for the research taken. George (2009) notes the literature suggest there is little consensus on the definition and measurement of achievement, though it may be seen the level of academic "school performance" by an individual. McCall, Evahn, and Kratzer's (1992) says "the lack of the performance is viewed as "underachievement" and it is usually measure by grades in the forms of standardized academic test on levels of intelligence" (as cited in George, 2009, p. 16).
This underperformance by boys has been proven by the numerous studies into the issue which themed the "gender gap". The "gender gap" refers to poor academic achievement of boys and the corresponding overwhelming advancement of the girls the education system. "The academic achievement of boys in relation to girls has been a social concern since at least the late 1600s in Europe, and that notions of boys underachievement have remained a feature of public concern, ebbing and flowing for the past several hundred years to present day" (George, 2009, p. 15). Hawley and Reichert (2010) revealed that there are a number of countries especially in the West, with boys falling behind girls in academic achievement, whether measured by reading level, National Honor Society numbers, dropout rates, or college attendance.
In our local hemisphere, Jha and Kelleher (2006) says "male underachievement is also a concern to educators and policymakers in the Caribbean region" (as cited in George, 2009, p. 13). This was highlighted in Trinidad and Tobago from the Ministry of Education's statistical report 2002/2003, where the number of male student dropout was twenty percent greater than females at the Primary School level. A reported in the Trinidad Express by Camille Bethel quotes "Two schools in a city and a village - not recognized as prestigious or outstanding - this year produced pupils who topped the scores in the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination at their schools. And again girls ruled."(p. 12). This article shows that the gender gap in Trinidad is still relevant at the primary school level. George, (2004 & 2005), shows in his reports that in Trinidad and Tobago at Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) - Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (CSEC) level of 2000-2004 showed that girls outperformed boys and in many cases, it was also seen in the Common Entrance Examinations (CEE) /Secondary Examination Assessment (SEA) examinations over the period 1995-2003, in every subtest of these examinations in each of the years. Recently there has been slight improvement in the secondary school level, Taitt (2011) reports that the Minister of Education, Tim Gopeesingh, says the performance gap between boys and girls in the CSEC and CAPE results is narrowing.
A personal perspective
Locally Trinidad and Tobago is no stranger to the issue of male underachievement and gender concerns; this could be seen through the action plans within our ministry of education's Strategic Plan 2011-2015. This document outlines a way forward to curb the growing concern of underachievement, as mentioned in the above discourse this global issue has been on the lips of government officials for some time. I can also draw parallels from the discourse of the "feminization" of education, as show in George (2009) "the lack of male role models especially in primary schools has been touted as an important contributory factor to the problem of male underachievement."(p. 23). De Lisle (1997) says "the rapid decline in the number of male teachers, leading to an increase number of female teachers at the secondary level" (as cited in George, 2009, p. 23). These quotes outline the current situation in our nation's schools, though a pertinent issue the research to relate the teacher gender and male achievement has been inconclusive. Statistically the results of students vary along from year to year; also between the gender of teachers and the subject studies. There have been situations where female teachers have been noted to increase male achievement and conversely male teachers discourage male students, and vice versa.
In my personal environment at work, our all male secondary school has a reduce number of male teachers, about thirty percent of the staff being male. I have seen though female teachers excel in motivating and pushing for the academic improvement of our boys. The environments they create has been describe as welcoming and fun, the students are eager to attend class and are stimulated by the demonstrations done.
I can also draw from personally experiences where a class may be labeled as indiscipline by a female teacher and therefore the students' grades reflect their behvaiour. This can be mirrored to the discourse above be Dee (2005) where there is the need of having the male role model as a teacher rather than a female teacher whose level of classroom control is below average. I heard from my students quotes such as "miss does not understand me", "they cannot talk to her because the issue is something only a male can relate to" and "miss needs to have class more like sir, more activities". Therefore I can see the need for the male role model in the persona of teacher. Contrary to this example, there are also some female teachers at my institution that can adopt this male persona and attain the discipline need to teach the boys. These female teachers adapt to their environment as shown by psychologist, Dobson (2001), "boys need a strong, respectful and respected presence before them who can relate to their life hence be able to draw out meaningful learning experiences" (p. 181-198).
I can also give examples of male teachers before a class where learning is not taking place as reflected in the grades attainted by the boys. There are occasions of classroom indiscipline that cannot be controlled by male members of staff. As a result the pinning of teacher gender as a cause for male achievement is still a vague issue in need of deeper research.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The debate on whether teacher gender affects male student achievement will continue for years to come. A definite statement would be to the discretion of researcher and the variables implemented in that report. As seen as the reports of Dee (2005, 2006), Diefenbach & Klein (2002), Neugebauer et. al( 2010) they agree with the same sex hypothesis of male achievement, through the topics of male role models, similarity of genetics and understanding of the male personality. Contradicting these reports are the studies of Chudgar and Sankar (2008), Driessen (2007), Krieg (2005) and UNESCO (2005), where female teachers are able to motivate and encourage male achievement. These reports reflect the positive effect the female teachers have on male students in creating an environment ideal for learning. To create further disparity, other researcher such as Driessen (2007) says "that is no relationship between teacher's gender and student outcomes." (as cited in Chudgar and Sankar (2008), p. 628). Driessen (2007) through interviews with the male students say the goal to achievement is placed not on the gender of the teacher but in their ability to teach the lesson. Therefore I believe at this juncture there is no clear result to the debate. I agree that there is a shortage of male teachers in the education system, as is being the catalyst for these research papers. Though labeling of this shortage of male teachers as the "feminization" of education is slightly inconsiderate and stating it as a reason for male underachievement cannot an affirmative claim.
There are recommendations that could be made to aid in this issue of underachievement and its relationship to teacher gender. In Trinidad and Tobago, the investment in teacher training is a vital component. The Ministry of Education of educations seeks to promote such initiatives in teacher training and development, as part of building a quality education system. (Strategic, 2012). This would provide a better quality of teacher who would be able to provide proper instructions, comfortable learning environments and motivate the male students, regardless of their gender.
The pedagogy of the male student must be a part of the learning process. Fundamentals of the male psychology, physiological and developmental needs of the male student must be taken into the account with in the preparation of the curriculum. Boy learn differently from girls, therefore the institutions should recognize and implement programs that cater to this difference. At the primary level, the National Research Committee has suggest that "the reading programme should specially address the developmental reading needs of boys" (National Research Committee, 1993 as cited in George, 2009, p.35)