MOE should control teachers' working hours

The Ministry of Education (MOE) needs to look into the working hours of teachers in order to stem the trend of teachers resigning ("5,000 teachers leave service over five years" and "Long hours, stress cited as reasons"; both published on Monday).

It is not surprising to hear of teachers working 12-hour days regularly. Unlike other public servants, teachers have no contractually fixed working times, and it can be difficult to tell when the work day begins and ends.

This is compounded by principals who have the autonomy to call teachers back for duty without any overtime pay or time off in lieu for after-school department meetings, night-time meet-the-parents sessions, overnight school camps, and other school events on weekends and during school holidays.

Not only do teachers have to be "on call" virtually 24 hours to parents and students ("Set limits so teachers get breathing space" by Mr Lionel Loi Zhi Rui ; Tuesday), some school leaders also set up WhatsApp chat groups to communicate work matters with teachers outside of working hours.

Some principals send out WhatsApp or e-mail messages over the weekend and expect prompt replies from their teachers.

Should all of this not have been done by the preceding Friday during working hours, as is the case in most other professions?

The MOE should take back control of teachers' working hours centrally by reducing the autonomy given to school principals to dictate their working hours.

This would prevent teachers from being overworked and leaving the service due to burn-out.

Tay Lee Chuan (Madam)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'MOE should control teachers' working hours'. Print Edition | Subscribe