WomenEd Blogs

Do Students Prefer Female Teachers?


By Punam Mohandas @PunamMohandas

The mind connection that people make between gender and the teaching profession makes for some fascinating research; in many countries, the ratio of female to male teachers is much higher. While undertaking some reading for this article, I came across several illuminating reasons on why there is a definite skew in gender when it comes to teaching. 

One key factor for women – who are also wives and mothers – to choose this profession is the work-life balance, in that school timings are conducive to giving attention to the home as well, in sharp contrast to corporate jobs. 

From the students' perspective, female teachers are perceived as more communicative and warmer in nature. Moreover, there is the aspect of 'safety', particularly in all-girls schools where male teachers are perceived as less safe. 

Findings by other researchers have also indicated that some male teachers are more biased towards male students and therefore direct less attention or engage in less class interaction with girl students. 

I also came across a quite unique viewpoint: that female teachers are seen as less intimidating than males, due to their size.

Paradoxically, research has also shown that there is greater resentment towards female teachers who don't conform to the standard student expectation of 'soft, kind and understanding'.

Do women really dominate the teaching profession? Let's see some data. 

According to a report by the World Bank, 68.19% of secondary school teachers in Thailand in 2020 were female, while 55.36% of primary education teachers in India (for the same year), were female. 

According to the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), data for 2019-2020 showed there were a total of 530,172 teachers working in England, of which 30.5% were male and 69.5% female. At primary school level, the scales tilted staggeringly towards female teachers, at 82.4%. 

The National Centre for Education Statistics in the USA listed roughly 76% of public school teachers as female and 24% as male, in 2017-2018. Elementary schools showed a figure of only 11% as male teachers, while the number increased to 36% at secondary school level.

I don't mean to be condescending or gender-biased here, however, while it is true that some male teachers are able to build a bond with their students, in my experience of teaching at a Thai international university for the last few years, I have observed that students think it is female teachers who are more disposed to being kind and sensitive. As a mum myself – and after having spoken to several female colleagues who are also mothers – I think it's fair to say that a willingness to be more understanding of adolescent behavior and issues comes more naturally to us, perhaps because we're dealing with similar issues at home with our own children. This kind of tacit empathy is something student antennas are quick to pick up on!

Furthermore, while most men tend to focus on economic factors, women are generally more aware of the socio-economic ones. This is especially true of Asian societies where, although the joint family system concept has been largely discarded, families still tend to remain close-knit. Thus, Asian women teachers are more attuned to factors such as debt, death or divorce in a student's family that can affect the concentration. 

Very often, there is also tremendous pressure on students to graduate as soon as possible to ease the financial burden on the parents, so that they experience feelings of being "cut off" from their relatively more financially secure peers. This can severely impact a student's mental and psychological well-being, as can the factor of "fitting in" among peers from more privileged backgrounds. A teacher sensitive to such factors, who can create a conducive, classroom emotional climate (CEC). can still save the student from reaching a tipping point. 

Again, while one is not disputing that male teachers are able to create CEC classrooms, many women are seen as more nurturing and gravitate towards CEC quite automatically.

However, while female teachers may be viewed more favourably for the reasons listed above, does gender really define a teacher's effectiveness in the classroom? Various studies have found that students who have inviting learning environments, who are encouraged to express their opinions and who have teachers who are approachable to discuss academic progress, are more likely to engage.

A teacher, irrespective of gender, must learn to invest in the emotional, psychological and mental well-being of a student too.

Failure to do so can lead to disenchantment on the part of the student with the system/institution at large, which is giving rise to one of the most crucial issues facing educational institutions these days – the high drop-out rate.

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Comments 2

Guest - Jude nwachukwu (website) on Monday, 23 January 2023 21:58

I love female teachers more than male teachers

I love female teachers more than male teachers:)
Guest - Nwachukwu jude (website) on Monday, 23 January 2023 22:00

I have recently shown more confort with female teachers teaching me than male teachers
Male teachers are some times more aggressive in nature

I have recently shown more confort with female teachers teaching me than male teachers Male teachers are some times more aggressive in nature:(
Thursday, 08 June 2023

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