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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3733 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

There is no evidence that gender balance is at the heart of delivering high quality education outcomes for our young people. Dr Andrew J Martin, in his paper prepared for the ACT Education Department-Improving the educational outcomes of boys-made the point that students were more concerned with how the teacher taught than whether they were male or female. The points made include the following:

... a good relationship between student and teacher, the teacher's enjoyment of teaching and working with young people, the teacher striking a good balance between asserting authority and being relaxed and tolerant, injecting and permitting humour in the classroom, providing boys-

and all students, by implication-

with choices, making schoolwork interesting and/or relevant, and a youthful teaching style (irrespective of the teacher's age), providing variety in content and methods, and respecting boys' opinions and perspectives.

Dr Martin said there was a view that having more male teachers in schools would be beneficial to all students, because it would provide a more balanced gender construction of teaching and learning, and provide students with greater diversity.

The point was made in a New South Wales review, however, that a school's staffing structure often reflects the gender inequalities in the wider community, and that more senior representation of female teachers needs to take place where possible. I will quote from the report of the Australian Secondary Principals Association. It reads:

... men tend to be clustered into roles that emphasize authority and discipline whilst women predominate in areas of nurturance and support. Schools are often giving boys and girls mixed messages about appropriate gender attitudes and behaviour.

The point about men and young people is about building positive relationships in and around middle school years. The key requirement for young people, in learning how to live together and in learning how to learn, is the quality of the relationships they have with a number of adults-male and female. They can be in school, extension programs or more widely in the community.

The changing shape of employment in our contemporary society is worth considering in this context. The amount of low-skilled and entry-level employment is diminishing, particularly in areas which have traditionally appealed to boys. We are seeing an ongoing problem of structural unemployment-even at a time when the economy is growing very strongly, as it is at present. Calling for a more enthusiastic marketing campaign to attract boys to be employees in the child-care sector is not really going to change that situation. The basic issue in gender balance is that many more women than men train as teachers and childcare workers.

I do not know about talking up the positive role men play, although I have no difficulty supporting the view that men can and do make a great contribution to the development of children in our society.

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