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2020-09-15 10:58:06

An article by China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency on the difficulty of hiring male teachers is being met with criticism online.

Jiang Jinjing, a prominent gender commentator better known by her social media handle, Liang Yu, said the article unnecessarily focused on gender disparity in education. She referred to preferential treatment like waived tuition fees for male students majoring in teaching and even lower standards for male teachers looking for work.

“Why does the excessive effort to balance the gender ratio in the job market never apply to women?” Jiang wrote on microblogging platform Weibo. “If women were ‘deported’ like this from regular job markets, where would they go?”

Xinhua’s article, published Tuesday, called for gender parity in classrooms, especially in remote parts of the country. For example, less than 3% of primary school teachers in the southwestern city of Chengdu are men, while the proportion hovers around 4% for middle schools.

Luo Zhonghua, a teacher in the southwestern Guizhou province, said only three of the 12 instructors at her village primary school were men.

“As a female teacher, I hope that there can be more male teachers, because we need them to do some of the harder chores on campus,” Luo told Sixth Tone, adding that gender does not factor into their wages. “Also, it’s hard to strengthen male students’ masculinity when they are surrounded by too many female teachers.”

However, not everyone agrees that having more male staff would affect the teaching environment or student behavior. A primary school teacher surnamed Liu in the southern city of Shenzhen questioned the importance of male role models in solving China’s “masculinity crisis.”

“There is no good rationale for why only male teachers can teach kids to be brave and tough, and yet male teachers are still somehow in high demand in the job market,” Liu told Sixth Tone. “The argument itself is sexist.”

Xiang Xianming, a professor at Nanjing Normal University’s School of Education Science, said the shortage of male teachers also stems from the rising number of sexual abuse cases involving educators, and the belief among many employers that hiring male teachers exposes students to greater risks.

According to a report by the China Foundation of Culture and Arts for Children and Beijing All-in-One Foundation, more than 800 children in China were sexually abused last year, and of the publicly searchable 301 cases, over 35% of victims were abused by school faculty.

According to Xinhua, the Ministry of Education has been mulling ways to balance the gender ratio among teachers, such as by offering higher salaries and other incentives.

“The current gender-based programs for male teachers are too controversial,” Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, a Beijing-based think tank, told Sixth Tone. “The point is to follow the market and provide teachers with sufficient pay.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Children study at a primary school in a mountainous area in Jiangkou County, Guizhou province, Nov. 17, 2012. People Visual)