Teacher, who imparts knowledge and educates people, is regarded as the most glorious profession in the world, but there exists a historical dilemma—a lack of male teachers. Male teachers are scarce among the public schools worldwide, including the United States, but the gender imbalance is especially pronounced in China, where women occupy four out of five teaching positions in urban areas, according to a study by Beijing Normal University in 2012. And the shortage is the most severe in kindergarten and preschools.
Worried that a shortage of male teachers will produce a generation of timid, self-centered and effeminate boys, Chinese educators are working to reinforce traditional gender roles and values in the classroom, according to New York Times.
Mr. Lin, one of a handful of male sixth-grade teachers at a primary school in Fuzhou, China, begins his history class with a lesson on being manly. He has made a habit of telling stories about ancient Chinese men who built the Great Wall with their physical effort in his history lessons. And in a nod to chivalry, he prods boys to apologize to girls when they get into fights. "Men have special duties," he said, "They have to be brave, protect women and take responsibility for wrongdoing."
In Zhengzhou, a city on the Yellow River, schools have asked boys to sign pledges to act like "real men." In Shanghai, principals are trying boys-only classes with courses like martial arts, computer repair and physics. In Hangzhou, in eastern China, educators have started a summer camp called West Point Boys, complete with taekwondo classes and the motto, "We bring out the men in boys."
Education officials across China are aggressively recruiting male teachers, as the Chinese news media warns of a need to "salvage masculinity in schools." The call for more male-oriented education has prompted a broader debate about gender equality and social identity at a time when the country's leaders are seeking to make the labor market more meritocratic.
It also reflects a general anxiety about boys in Chinese society. While boys outnumber girls as a result of the longstanding one-child policy and a cultural preference for sons, they consistently lag in academic performance. Some parents worry about their sons' prospects in uncertain economic conditions, so they are putting their hopes in male role models who they believe impart lessons on assertiveness, courage and sacrifice.
The view that there is an overabundance of female teachers that has had a negative effect on boys has led to a backlash. Parents have accused schools of propagating rigid concepts of masculinity and gender norms, and female educators have denounced efforts to attract more male teachers with lavish perks as sexist.
In Fuzhou, a city of two million, colleges and universities have come under fire for relaxing admission requirements and offering full scholarships and teaching jobs to young men.
Ms. Xue, a student at Fujian Normal University, wondered why women should not get similar benefits to enter traditionally male fields. "If women go into architecture, shouldn't the government give them a free education too?" she said, "Why should men get this benefit?"
In some schools, teachers said the large number of female educators, especially in lower grades, had a positive influence on students. "We have a more intuitive sense of children's needs," said Ms. Li, a kindergarten teacher in Fuzhou. "It isn't the responsibility of schools to teach boys to act like boys. It's the responsibility of parents."
Chinese education officials, for the most part, appear to disagree. In some districts, school officials have pressured local officials to intervene, saying students are underperforming because they lack male role models. Boys consistently trail girls on college entrance exams, and disparities in academic achievement emerge as early as third grade, according to a study by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences in 2012.
In recent years, education officials in Fujian, Guangxi and Jiangsu have created incentives for male teachers, arguing that men bring an energetic style that appeals to boys.
Still, it is not clear that children derive academic benefits from studying with teachers of the same sex. In 2008, a study of 9,000 11-year-olds in Britain found no tie between male teachers and higher academic performance among boys.
Shanghai No. 8 Senior High School began an all-boys program for 60 students in 2012 with the goal of "reviving the masculinity" of its male students by offering courses in etiquette, coding and wilderness survival, among others. Xiaohao, a senior at the school, said he did not think China faced a masculinity crisis in its classrooms. But he said boys felt more confident when they took classes together. "In classes with female students, we might not dare speak out," he said, "When it's just boys, we feel much freer."
Sun Yunxiao, a researcher at the China Youth and Children Research Center and the author of a book on education titled "Save the Boys", said that Chinese students were increasingly distant from male role models, including their fathers. "Children need both female teachers and male teachers for their development," Mr. Sun said.
A major obstacle to luring more men into teaching is the modest wages paid to educators in China, which is the same as elsewhere in the world.
In 2013, the average salary of a teacher at a public school was about $17,000, according to government statistics. While Chinese law dictates that teacher pay should not fall below the salaries of other public servants, enforcement has been inconsistent, resulting in some teachers seek out higher-paying positions in other fields.
Of the million or so kindergarten teachers and instructional aides across China, about 60,000, or 6 percent, are male, government statistics show. Retention of male teachers is a serious challenge in China, and many male educators complain that they are lonely and disrespected.
Jiang, a first-year student at Fujian Normal University, said many of his friends and relatives were confused when he said he wanted a career in teaching. "They asked, 'why would a man want to be a teacher?' " He continued, "They think men should be ambitious, and that it's so stable and bland to be a teacher."
Even on campus, the students are mocked for their career choice, Mr. Jiang explained, and some are stereotyped as gay or effeminate.
However, some people say that a shortage of male teachers should not be blamed for a lack of masculinity in schools. They argue that having a masculine father is more important than having a male teacher. As the sayings goes, like father like son, whether a boy can be masculine depends not on whether his teacher is a man or woman.
Influenced by the proclamation that women hold up half the sky, women have gained a higher economic position and tougher personality nowadays. The social media also have a bad impact on the health of children. Today, there are too many TV plays about the imperial harems and eunuchs. Anyway, it's not a single-factor social problem. Efforts from education, family, society, government and media are needed to make our boys men.
What measures should Chinese schools take to overcome difficulties and recruit enough male teachers? Will male teachers help boys to regain their masculinity? Welcome to our discussion!
The article is translated and editted by Chinlingo. Please indicate the source for any use, reproduction or transfer.