elementar
men in early childhood education and care

News March 2009

The research project „elementar – Men in Early Childhood Education“ got positive resonance in Austria. Since we started the project in April 2008 interest in the topic of men in ECE is increasing in the media as well as in professional and scientific debates.

Statistics: few men in Austria

In the first project period a lot of statistic material was analysed. In the year 2007/2008 there were 528 men working as pedagogic professionals in Austrian ECEC and after-school-services (“Kindertagesheimen”) – 1,4 percent of the pedagogic professional workforce. The highest proportion, five percent, was to be found in after-school-services (“Hort”). In ECEC the proportion of male workers is below one percent.
There are major differences between states and regions of Austria. In Vienna there are 200 men working, who make up around two percent of the pedagogical work force, whereas in several regions there are nearly no men to be found.

In vocational training the number of male students has been increasing over the last decades. It was as late as the beginning of the eighties that the secondary school training, which is the standard way to the profession, was opened for boys/men. From only three Students in that time the number of male students went up to 251 in the year 2006/2007. The relative proportion of male students also has been growing continously, but is still not higher than three percent. Moreover, after school many students decide to continue with further education instead of working in the field.

Questionnaires and interviews started

The empirical part of the project involves several target grous: pupils prior to career decisions, students in vocational training, people working in ECE, and dropouts. After a review of the literature we started in summer 2008 with a pilot phase of group discussions with men and women of the different target groups.
From there on, several questionnaires have been developed for the different target groups. We started with a survey of pupils in the process of occupational decision. More than 500 pupils of seven secondary schools took part. The first impression is that adolescents have diverse opinions about men as ECE workers. Some express rejection (“somebody who is fit for nothing and has two left hands”), while others see it as an attractive profession (“I can well imagine to work in that field”, “males can work in ECE as well as women”).
As a next step, we aim at including all men 1. working in ECE and 2. being in training for ECE in Austria in a paper-and-pencil survey. As for comparisons, female workers and students are also included in the sample. At the moment, the survey of students in vocational training for ECE is on the way. The survey of workers will follow.

Another approach of the research project is conducting in-depth interviews with workers and students in all parts of Austria. Here also men as well as women are included. Guidelines were developed for the different target groups. In the first interviews we met men who were competent in the field and felt to be “at the right place”. They are as well able to cope with the special challenges of the work in crèches with 1 ½ to 3 year old children, where there are only very very few men in Austria. Another impression was that professionals as well as children benefit from a gender-mixed workforce. There are positive feedbacks from parents, also.

Information and publications

On our homepage http://www.uibk.ac.at/ezwi/elementar/index.html.en we inform about our project and inform about publications, some of it available for download. We are especially happy to present a german version of the Norwegian brochure “Men in kindergardens” from Pia Friis, leader of Bjerkealleen kindergarden in Oslo. The brochure includes background information, reports about practical experiences of and with men and a lot of ideas how to get more men to the field. The german version can be downloaded from our homepage: http://www.uibk.ac.at/ezwi-elementar/literatur

The research project has been presented to the public on several congresses and meetings. In autumn 2009 it will take part in a german symposium for men working in ECE in Hannover, North Germany.
Moreover, we are in contact with international experts, and are glad to be part of the European network KOME –Knowledge on Men in Early Childhood Education. We will join the EECERA conference in Strasbourg in August 2009 and take part in a self organized symposium on men in ECE.

If you have any questions or remarks on our project, please contact us. We enjoy sharing experiences and working together on understanding gender in ECE and bringing more men to the field.

 

University of Innsbruck, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Austria
email:  elementar-ezwi@uibk.ac.at
web:   http://www.uibk.ac.at/ezwi/elementar/index.html.en

 

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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