The widening gender gap in the teaching profession over the past 50 years is highlighted in CSO census data.
In the 1961 census 63 per cent of people who recorded their occupation as “teacher” were female. By 2011 the figure had risen to almost three-quarters (74 per cent).
These figures hide an even wider gap in the gender breakdown at primary level.
Figures provided by the Department of Education yesterday show that 86 per cent of primary school teachers were female in the 2011/’12 school year, the last year for which it could provide figures.
The equivalent figure at secondary level was 68 per cent female versus 32 per cent male.
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn attracted controversy at the annual conference of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation on Tuesday when he referred to the "highly feminised audience and profession".
Mr Quinn made the comments in the context of a remark about higher-level mathematics at Leaving Cert which he said he wants to see become part of the minimum entry requirements for initial teacher education. He said research by his department indicated that young women were dropping honours maths after Junior Cert level because it was not a requirement.
The Irish Times contacted a number of teacher training colleges yesterday asking them to provide a gender breakdown for current students enrolled in their Bachelor of Education courses.
In the Marino Institute of Education 86 per cent of current first-year students are female. However, when students from all four years of the degree course are taken into account the percentage of female to male students falls to 80:20.
Mary Immaculate College in Limerick said 76 per cent of its first-year student cohort was female, adding that the 3:1 ratio of female to male students was reflected in the other years of the course.
St Patrick’s College in Drumcondra, Dublin, said 74 per cent of its current first year students were female.
President of St Patrick’s College, Prof Daire Keogh, said the latest enrolment figures indicated that “things are improving” at graduate entry level.
He said the increase in the proportion of young men entering education courses was important. “What is critical in terms of gender balance is the presence of strong role models in schools across the country. Boys going through school have to see male teachers if they are to contemplate that career.”
Figures for the percentage of male and female students who had taken honours levels maths were not available from the CAO yesterday.
However, figures provided by Mary Immaculate College in Limerick showed that 46 per cent of the current first years enrolled in its Bachelor of Education course had taken higher-level maths in the Leaving Cert.
At St Patrick’s College, in 2012, 47.5 per cent of students studying to become teachers had taken higher-level maths.
In 2013, one-quarter of all Leaving Cert students who took the maths exam took the higher-level paper, 63 per cent took ordinary-level maths, and the remainder took foundation level, according to figures provided by the State Examinations Commission.