Experts in education from the University of South Australia are advocating for a national strategy focused on encouraging more men to pursue careers in early learning and childcare. This initiative is part of the recently unveiled action plan from the Minderoo Thrive by Five Dad’s Alliance, which seeks to promote more active involvement of fathers in their children's lives.

Shockingly, less than 3% of men occupy roles as teachers or caregivers in the early childhood education and care sector. This grim number highlights the pressing need for gender diversity, according to Dr. Martyn Mills-Bayne from UniSA, a lecturer in Early Childhood Education.

Dr. Mills-Bayne emphasizes, “The first five years of a child’s life are critical to healthy development, and it’s vital that children receive the best quality of care during these early years.” He added it is essential that children are cared for by positive role models from both genders.

However, the current shortage of male educators in early childhood education means that children are missing out on the beneficial interaction and influence of a gender-diverse workforce. This includes the opportunity to form meaningful relationships with male educators and to observe everyday interactions among male, female, and non-binary educators.

This issue, however, is not unique to Australia. Globally, men represent only 4% of the early childhood education and care workforce in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. This contributes to the growing national teacher shortage in Australia.

Dr. Mills-Bayne underscores the unique benefits that male teachers and caregivers can bring to early childhood settings. Beyond providing more opportunities for 'rough-and-tumble' play and encouraging children to take risks, they also serve as much-needed healthy and caring role models.

“Breaking long-established gender stereotypes is vital and it needs to be more strongly supported in early childcare and education,” concludes Dr. Mills-Bayne.

Picture: Old male teacher giving a lesson in a preschool classroom (ChildUp & DALL-E - 2023)