Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3730 ..
MRS CROSS (continuing):
In all the overseas countries in which I have worked-I cannot think of an exception-teachers are regarded extremely highly. They are respected not only by the students but also by the families. It is almost a reverent form of behaviour. It was nice to see the people spending a third of a child's day with them afforded the respect and acknowledgment they deserved in each of those communities. It is a little similar to how the military is treated in many of those countries versus how it is treated in this one, and how we try to find the negative things in professions, rather than the positive.
I am encouraged by what the minister has said. I am encouraged that the government has many initiatives, but I would like to commend Mrs Burke on the MPI because this is important. I remember that, during the campaign, one of the issues we were dealing with was the problem of boys' education-that the problem was the gender imbalance in schools, and that there were many troubled male teenagers because they lacked a male role model in the school environment.
We cannot be all things to all people, and no situation is perfect. I have friends who are single parents-both men and women-and they do an exceptional job. From watching our own education minister, I think she should be commended. She is an outstanding mum and has one of the most beautiful little girls I have ever met. I am proud to sit next to her in this chamber. I know that, in a perfect world, people would like to have a mum and a dad, but that is not always possible. I married into a situation where that was not possible for my husband and his children. It was difficult.
I would like us to look at this MPI, because the merits and sentiment of it are positive. I think there are a number of solutions to this problem. I am encouraged that we are all here debating it today. I am encouraged by the minister's commitment to this area, and I am heartened by Mrs Burke's commitment to this area. I commend the MPI to the Assembly.
MR STEFANIAK (4.26): This is a very timely MPI, because there is a significant problem. Mrs Cross was saying that, many years ago, there were a lot more male teachers-even at primary school level-and that that was never so much the case in kindergarten and with infants. That is true. Having gone through the state school system-as did the current minister-I can certainly attest to that.
When I went to primary school about 40 years ago, in years 3 and 4 I had female teachers and in years 5 and 6 I had male teachers-a mix of about 50-50. In those days, the principal would invariably be a male. The ratio now is that something like 12 per cent of our primary school teachers are males.
I believe there is a lot that can be done. I recall the issue very well when I was minister. I recall encouraging the department-and pushing the department-to pull out all stops to try to recruit good young male teachers. I clearly recall, back in either 1999 or 2000, looking at figures which showed that 60 per cent of the applicants for teaching positions in the ACT were female and 40 per cent were male.
I was a bit disconcerted that the percentages of those hired were 62 per cent females and 38 per cent males. It was explained to me that it is done on merit. Maybe one thing the department-and the minister-needs to look at is what happened in the 1970s. There