When it comes to the lasting effects of our schooling, new research suggests that it’s not just what we learn that matters – but whom we know it from. A recent study into rural schooling in the 1930s and 1940s America found that girls who had female teachers at primary school achieved better educational outcomes. And the impact of having a female role model continued long after they had left school.
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The research, led by Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, looked at data from over 12,000 people born between 1931 and 1941. It found that those with a higher proportion of female teachers in their schooling were more likely to complete high school and go on to college.
They were also more likely to enter a professional career and earn more over their lifetime.
Goldin and her team believe that female teachers’ presence helped break down gender stereotypes at a time when girls saw few women in professional roles. And they say that the effects are just as relevant today.
“This is not just about what happened in the 1930s and 1940s,” Goldin told The Huffington Post. “It’s about what’s happening today, regarding the dearth of women in high-status occupations.”
“If we want to see more women in these roles, we must start by making sure they’re visible role models for young girls.”
The findings are especially relevant in the US, where women make up just a quarter of all teachers. And they come at a time when the education system is under intense scrutiny, with many questioning whether it is fit for purpose in the 21st century.
But Goldin says that the solution is not to turn back the clock; rather, it is to ensure that our schools reflect our society.
“We need to have a workforce that looks like America,” she said. “And that means having more women in leadership positions.”
What do you think of the findings? Let us know in the comments below.
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