elementar
men in early childhood education and care

Research project 2008-2010

“Public Fathers” - Austrian Male Work Force in Early Childhood Education and Care

In the complete area of institutional child care and education a significant under-representation of males can be determined throughout Europe. The proportion of male child care workers lies below five percent. Austria is well below the European average with less than one percent.
Furthermore, there is only few literature about men in child care services available. Empirical research is frequently based on individual case studies. We know very little about how men obtain these jobs, about the motives and experiences of men in child care institutions, about their biographical particulars (e.g., contacts with men and fathers) and how men cope with the contradictions and conflicts inherent in a supposedly 'typically female' occupation.
Compared to other European countries, in Austria the whole area of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) has a rather low status. One reason is that the vocational training for so called “Kindergartenpädagogen” is not on high school / university level. Instead it is situated in the secondary school, so pupils start their training as early as 14 years old. The question of male professionals in this field has only recently received public interest, and there has been no scientific research on the topic in Austria.
A research group at the University of Innsbruck has now taken on a research project on men in ECEC in Austria. The objectives are to find out more about what characterizes these men and what they experience while working in kindergarten, as well as to look at what role gender aspects play as they undergo vocational training.  The term “public fathers” was introduced as a synonym for the importance of male attachment figures (“psychological fathers”) for the development of children. In view of the insufficient research on “public fathers” established ‘father studies’ will play an important role in research (cf. publications of the project director, Aigner J.C.: 'The Distant Father', Giessen 2001).

The study specifically aims at researching 

  • their individual biography, image of masculinity, educational background, professional career, occupational satisfaction, etc.
  • the question of a 'male approach': Is there a specific ‘male’ way of working with children? Why do children need men in early childhood institutions? 
  • and identifying factors that encourage or discourage men to get trained and work in the field of ECEC.

The empirical part involves questionnaires and in-depth interviews directed at the specific target groups: pupils prior to career decisions, EC educators in training, dropout students, and individuals actively involved in elementary education. We specify how career choice is determined by male socialization, family and social environment, and which male images dominate the influence the educational system has on the attractiveness of the job for males. This leads to an identification of the factors that could encourage a rise in male representation.
Quality in early childhood education and care depends on high quality staff training and - as the OECD report Starting Strong II points out – ‘strategies are needed to recruit and retain a well-qualified, diverse mixed gender workforce...' (OECD 2006a). The study is one of the few Austrian research projects investigating the area Early Childhood Education and Care.
Scientific networking, working together with experts and research projects for ECEC in other European countries, is an integral part of the research project (see link list). The results of the study will be presented at a conference at Innsbruck in spring 2010.

 

University of Innsbruck, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Austria

email: elementar-ezwi@uibk.ac.at
web: http://www.uibk.ac.at/ezwi/elementar

 

director Univ. Prof. Dr. Josef C. Aigner 
team  Dr. Tim Rohrmann 
Mag. Bernhard Koch
Mag. Claudia Schwaizer
Mag. Barbara Strubreither 
expert advice  

Univ. Assist. Dr. Anton Perzy
Univ. Assist. Dr. Gerald Poscheschnik 

term 2008 – 2010
funding Austrian Science Research Fund: (FWF)
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