The MENtor program for males in early childhood education: Addressing the impacts of gender imbalance on student experience

Concerns have long been raised about the shortage of male teachers being employed in ECE and Primary school settings in Australia and across the world (Medford, Knorr & Cook 2013). Coupled with these industry- focused concerns is the challenge of encouraging more males to consider higher education study in early childhood education (ECE) (Mills-Bayne 2016). At the University of South Australia, male pre-service teachers account for around 3-4% of the ECE student cohort each year. This figure reflects the general state of gender balance of those educating children under 5 years of age across Australia, where men account for 2.7% of the ECE workforce (Department of Education and Training 2013). The challenges facing these men are mirrored in research literature (Sumsion 2000; Rentzou 2013), and include societal, parental and colleague suspicion of paedophilia, societal views about the gendered role of early childhood educators, the status of early childhood education and its incompatibility with societal perceptions of masculinities, as well as the social isolation that can be felt during study at university. This paper describes the successes that the innovative MENtor Program for Males in ECE has had in supporting domestic and international male pre-service teachers as they enter study at the University of South Australia. Findings from interviews with male students in their first year of study are used to demonstrate the ways in which initiatives such as the MENtor Program for Males in ECE can improve student experience.Department of Education and Training (2013). National Workforce Census: Early childhood and child care, 23 May, viewed 29 February 2016, .Medford, L., Knorr, R. & Cook, M. (2013). ‘Men missing from the PK-12 classroom: A discussion of research-based explanations’, SRATE Journal, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 14-21. Mills-Bayne, M. (2016). 'Stepping out of isolation: Supporting males in early childhood education through the MENtor Program', 10th Annual EC-MENz Summit: Celebrating the many roles of men in ECE, Bethlehem Tertiary Institute, Tauranga, New Zealand, 8-9 April 2016. Rentzou, K. (2013). ‘Greek male senior high school students’ attitudes and perceptions towards early childhood education and care’, International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 45-62.Sumsion, J. 92000). ‘Rewards, risks and tensions: perceptions of males enrolled in an early childhood teacher education programme’, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 87-100.