The Why Choose Teaching? report is a national first to ascertain the motivations and influences that have attracted practicing teachers to enter the profession in the first place.
The study comes at a time when Australian and state governments are grappling with a looming teacher drought. By 2022, student figures are set to swell by 26 per cent*. Meanwhile, the past five years have seen national teacher numbers grow by an average of 1 per cent annually**.
While earlier studies have focused on preservice teachers, the report, commissioned by Queensland College of Teachers (QCT), taps into practising teachers for insights on how to better target recruitment, particularly among men and Indigenous Australians. It also debunks certain myths about practicing teachers’ view of the profession.
A solution to the male teacher drought
Current ABS Labour Force statistics reveal that one in four primary and secondary teachers across Australia are male, and that the ratio of male to female teachers has been steadily declining since 1984**.
LSIA Director Professor Claire Wyatt-Smith said: “Past research has shown male teachers have a part to play in both girls’ and boys’ social development, so the male teacher drought in the classroom is of considerable concern. This report reveals the need for a very targeted and differentiated approach to successfully attracting more men to the teaching profession.”
The Why Choose Teaching report shows that intrinsic motivations, like a passion for teaching children, generally have the largest influence on a person’s decision to become a teacher. For male teachers specifically, results show the most significant motivators are teaching a specialised subject in which they hold an interest, leadership opportunities and knowledge sharing.
“With the most significant motivator for male teachers being to teach a subject they have a strong interest in, we need to ramp up our targeting of people in general discipline degrees in needed subject areas,” Professor Claire Wyatt-Smith says.
“More male teachers also have greater career advancement and leadership aspirations than female teachers and view teaching as a step towards gaining leadership roles. As a result, career pathways need to be developed and promoted to attract more men into teaching. In addition, leadership training needs to be readily available,” she continued.
Busting myths about teacher attrition
Professor Wyatt-Smith also acknowledged the challenge of retaining teachers, especially in the early stages of their career, but noted that perceptions of teachers as widely unsatisfied were wrong.
“We know the first five years is a critical period for retaining teachers, but this report shows that the issue isn’t because of dissatisfaction with teaching as a career,” she says.
“Despite the challenging nature of the profession and the way it is sometimes presented in the media, three quarters of the 1,165 practicing teachers surveyed indicate they are satisfied or very satisfied with their current type of employment conditions,” she continued.
The report also reveals 87 per cent of practicing teachers intend to remain in education-related employment. This includes: teaching as a lifelong career; taking up a leadership role, and; taking a positon in a related field.
Stemming the nation’s impending teacher drought
John Ryan, Director, Queensland College of Teachers, said the key to tackling the approaching teacher shortage was understanding what motivates tomorrow’s teachers and making sure these factors are addressed.
“First of all, the report shows 40 per cent of teachers decide to become a teacher while they are still in school. This means the promotion of the teaching profession by teachers, parents and family is most powerful with school students. Teachers need to understand the vital ambassadorial role they have in attracting the next generation of teachers to the profession – they could help identify prospective candidates while at school and foster interest through the years of schooling” he says.
The report also calls on regulatory authorities and other key stakeholders involved in workforce planning to engage in continuous promotion of the status and image of the teaching profession. It recommends authorities emphasise the impact teachers have on society, students’ futures, and the building of a productive, healthy future generation.
“Ultimately, what this report shows is that we need to put systems in place to regularly measure satisfaction levels of teachers to improve workforce building and planning, and to investigate the most effective ways to attract teachers to the workforce through a range of HR and leadership strategies. In short, there needs to be further professionalisation of teaching,” Ryan says.
**ABS Labour Force, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards.