More than a change in number: Gendering the historical development of primary school teaching in Hong Kong

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


It is well recognized that primary school teaching in Hong Kong is a feminized, viz. female-dominant, occupation, yet the reasons and processes contributing to such a development have not received much academic attention. Similarly, as most people seem to know what a primary teacher is and does, the meanings of the category “primary teacher” have been taken as self-evident and is seldom subject to closer scrutiny. This paper attempts to fill these gaps by re-examining the historical development of primary school teaching via a gendering perspective. It will trace the historical changes of the teaching profession from the early colonial times to the recent context of educational restructuring, and illustrates how it has changed from “men’s work” to “women’s work” in responses to various colonial, economic, political and social factors. Moreover, the historical account attempts to also argue that the meanings of “primary teacher” are not fixed but gendered, i.e. we witness not only changes of number between male and female teachers but constant redefinitions of the role, status, and nature of women and primary school teachers. For instance, “women’s nature” has been associated with variable and malleable meanings and so does the “nature” of the occupation, which tends to promote and privilege a particular form of masculinity or/and femininity when circumstances required. At the end of the paper, some implications of a gendering historical perspective will be mentioned.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2009


primary school teaching
historical development
Hong Kong
female teacher
primary school teacher
women's work
political factors
economic factors
social factors


Chan, A. K.-W. (2009, June). More than a change in number: Gendering the historical development of primary school teaching in Hong Kong. Paper presented at the Conference and Exhibition on "Education and Heritage", The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.