Set limits so teachers get breathing space

The trend of teachers resigning is a worrying one ("5,000 teachers leave service over five years"; yesterday).

This is especially true when experienced teachers do so, because their expertise and knowledge gained over time are no longer available for students and new teachers to tap.

The need to retain experienced teachers is especially urgent, given that such teachers have the option of leaving the service to join the tuition industry, which is more flexible and lucrative.

The Ministry of Education could consider delegating more responsibilities for organising co-curricular activities and other school activities to a new department. More administrators should also be hired.

This will lighten the workload for teachers and allow them to better focus on their primary role of educating students.

The ministry could also consider limiting the hours that teachers have to spend in school and introducing guidelines about contacting teachers outside school hours.

In this age of rampant social media use, teachers are often expected to be contactable 24 hours a day.

Most teachers are happy to give out their contact numbers initially to answer questions and arrange for occasional student consultations.

However, parents and students are increasingly contacting teachers freely and expecting a swift response.

This robs teachers of breathing space to recharge and rest. This is necessary for their overall well-being, so that they can perform at their best in the classroom.

Much as the Education Ministry has concentrated on recruiting more new teachers, it is equally important to pay attention to retaining experienced ones.

Otherwise, the training and time invested cannot deliver maximum returns to our education system if more teachers leave the profession.

Lionel Loi Zhi Rui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2016, with the headline 'Set limits so teachers get breathing space'. Print Edition | Subscribe