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Would more female teachers boost GCSE maths and other STEM subjects?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Feb 7, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    A new Timss international study suggests that more female teachers are needed to overcome damaging stereotypes in the subject, but is this really the key to make it more appealing?

    ‘I recognise that, for some, maths can be a subject that causes stress, anxiety, even hatred…Two decades of Timss data reveals a strong relationship between students’ confidence in a subject and their performance, and indicates that lack of confidence may put a student off pursuing subjects to a higher level.

    Worryingly, our latest results from Timss 2015 also showed that confidence in maths drops as a student gets older, with 32 per cent of grade 4 (10-year-old) students reporting feeling very confident in maths, compared with just 14 per cent of grade 8 students (14-year-olds).

    A persistent gender issue...

    Meanwhile, in 2017, the UNESCO report Cracking the Code: Girls and Women’s Education in Stem drew on many studies, including ones by IEA, and not only did it demonstrate the underrepresentation of girls in Stem courses within higher education, it also shed light on the harm caused by oft-repeated stereotypes about maths being for boys.’
    Dr Dirk Hastedt is executive director at IEA, an international cooperative of national research institutions, government research agencies, scholars and analysts working to evaluate, understand and improve education worldwide.

    What are your views on this issue? Why do you think students are put off by maths and other STEM subjects and what do you think needs to change to help boost their popularity at GCSE level and beyond?

  2. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Lead commenter

    Umm probably not as your article says:
    "In most countries, students’ achievement in Timss was not linked to the gender of their teacher. In the few countries where there was a significant link, generally the students with a female teacher achieved better results."

    The IoP produced a guide to good practice in countering gender stereotyping in schools
  3. maggie m

    maggie m Senior commenter

    Well in the mixed school I am in there are 14 science teachers in the department ( some part timers) 4 are male. Our 2 physicists are female as are our 2 of our 3 chemists. Not a single girl has taken physics A level in years. The maths department is exactly 50:50 male female. They get more girls taking A level but very much a minority. Now eldest daughter was at an all girls school.She took all science A levels including physics and if I remember correctly there were about a dozen students in hrr physics class. Most of her science teschers were male.
    strawbs likes this.
  4. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Plenty (a majority) of female science and maths teachers where I know.
    Some mid-teen girls are put off by the unequivocal numerical logic of maths, physics and chemistry (but so are many boys).
    The girls I'm working with on A level chemistry are mostly doing it as an enabler for medicine related courses rather than the joy of balanced equations.
    Good teachers at KS3 lead to positivity in GCSE and take up of A level.
    I'm not going to argue with anyone who says "what about good primary teaching?" -- in fact I'll get it in first.
    nighttrace likes this.
  5. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    We also need society demonstrating how much they value smart scientists as role models for both genders rather than actors, pop stars and "reality TV stars" (whatever they are).
    nighttrace likes this.
  6. adam_nichol

    adam_nichol Occasional commenter

    Doesn't most of the research demonstrate that gender stereotyping of subjects is pretty ingrained by KS1 or 2? Not sure more female science teachers for KS4/5 would impact that (not that it isn't a good idea for a whole host of other reasons).

    Taking a very obscure look at this....I agree with the above on societal values and visibility of pathways to success (and what success looks like). There is an interesting article on Medium about young people who voted Trump did so because of a nihlist-joke view of their future ("We're f//ked, there is no hope, don't vote for the false hope, vote for the joke, watch it burn"). The article wanders around too much and much of it is unconvincing, so I won't post a link, but that bit was interesting. (happy to post link if people want).
    Blending this thought with a discussion of gender pay equality I had elsewhere on the web, I wonder if (if you'll pardon the phrase) 'toxic capitalism' is to blame. We are told from birth that our role is to develop skills so that we can deliver 7.5hrs of productivity every day. If you want reward for that productivity, you need to be talented. Maths and Science is right/wrong. Thus it's risky to stake your worker-drone future on something where you could be wrong. Less risky to stake it on something with a woolier view of success.
  7. nighttrace

    nighttrace New commenter

    We don't have enough good, subject specialists in this country. There are many children taught by teachers who only have a C grade in their maths GCSE at primary schools. (C in maths GCSE is 20.8%). At secondary schools, some children are taught by P.E teachers who aren't maths specialists either.

    Whilst the media is obsessed with Finnish model: very little homework and a lot of outdoor leaning, they rarely talk about how well qualified the Finnish teachers are: Teaching and guidance staff within day-care centres generally have Bachelor’s degrees. Pre-primary teachers in schools hold a Master’s degree.
  8. nighttrace

    nighttrace New commenter

    Without improving the subject level of the teachers, it is hard to see how we are going to improve the overall attainment.

    I'm from China where we are taught by teachers who have maths-related degree from day one. The Chinese education has its various flaws, but teachers are all specialists in their areas.

    P.s. A level maths is a compulsory option and half of the pupils study sciences.
  9. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    Am I alone in finding this question extremely patronising and stupid?

    It's got nothing to do with the gender of the teacher. it's got to do with the quality of the teacher, that's it. We need to attract more good physics teachers into the profession (and then retain them), people with good knowledge of and passion for their subject and who are good teachers. The profession has been so run down that it's hard to keep such people and so too many posts (not just in physics) are staffed either by non-specialists or by subject specialists who aren't natural teachers.

    Sometimes I look at the threads Rosaline starts and think she must be just doing it to get a rise out of us. Click bait.
    Stiltskin likes this.
  10. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Lead commenter

    Yes - see this report for example

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