When Mr Henry Chiang, 37, started his teaching journey at the National Institute of Education (NIE), he was one of the five male students in his class.

“I had more female classmates [in NIE]. This did not bother me as we are educators, [and] we are here for our students,” he recalls.

Mr Chiang is now the Assistant Year Head at Saint Andrew’s Secondary School, an all-boys institution. But he’s still surrounded by mostly female colleagues.

According to data from the Ministry of Education (MOE), the male intake in NIE has remained lower compared to female intake since 1982. In 2007, Mr Chiang was among the 560 male students who pursued their Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) in NIE, while there were 1,292 female students in the same year. Male students represented 30.2 per cent of total student intake that year.

A study done by The Center for Global Development shows that the dominance of female teachers can also be observed worldwide mainly in regions such as Europe, Latin America, and North America, where close to 70 per cent of the teacher population are made up of females since the 1980s.

The dominance of women in the teaching profession can be explained by the gender role stereotypes that remain entrenched in society.

“Teaching is nurturing, which [may come across as] more natural to female teachers,” Mr Chiang says.

But male teachers, too, can be “firm and nurturing at the same time”, a male discipline master in a primary school told The Straits Times in an interview.

Mr Chiang agrees, saying that male teachers provide a balance of care and concern from a man’s perspective, which is especially important in boys’ schools.

Dr Bernard Ricardo, 35, further acknowledges that male role models are crucial as all students need a father figure, especially those coming from an incomplete family.

“A father figure gives a sense of identity, security and purpose. There have been ample studies on how father figure[s] supports the cognitive development of young kids. I believe this is generalisable cross-culture,” he says.

The Physics Senior Consultant at NUS High School of Mathematics and Science is the only male recipient of the Caring Teacher Award (National Level) this year.

Caring Teacher Award (National Level) recipient Dr Bernard Ricardo (first row, centre) with his Secondary 2 class at NUS High School of Mathematics and Science.
Photo credit: Dr Bernard Ricardo.

“I do believe that [teaching] has nothing to do with gender. Because to me, teaching is really a calling. It is the kind of job that you will not take if you are money-oriented. It is something that [you do] because it gives you fulfilment.”

“It is important to dispel the belief that only female teachers are able to care for their students. That’s why it is important to have male representation in schools,” he adds.

Edited by: Anmi Chou Shigeta
Proofread by: Rachel Sin Ka Lam