Teachers' overtime work driven by parents' expectations

Some of the points in my previous letter ("Working after school hours part of 'service'"; last Saturday) have been misinterpreted by readers.

When I put down the key reasons why teachers work beyond school hours, I did not mean that they should put in these hours.

What I meant was that the extra working hours teachers put in are driven by competitive parents who expect schools, and hence teachers, to serve and go beyond their duties to maximise students' potential.

I view "service", especially in teaching, as no less respected and no less important in our society. I certainly did not mean to cause distress to the very people I was trying to defend.

I agree with Mr Christopher Tang ("Respect teachers' right to rest, private time") and Mr Lim Tee Aun ("Parents should prioritise kids' education"; both published on Tuesday) that parents are to make time to attend school activities and not push the school to adapt to their needs.

I do not dispute that teachers have their own needs and should have similar work-life balance as those in other professions do.

But we need to address the real and diverse issues faced by students, parents and teachers.

Through my interaction with a number of low-income parents in neighbourhood schools, I have found that they are unwilling to take leave to attend school activities due to the nature of their work.

For them, feeding the family is more important than education. Taking time off from work would mean no income or less income.

Though they may not be the majority, they should not be ignored.

I have also heard of competitive parents who compare notes on which school provides extra lessons and how frequently. Such is the culture that may have driven schools to compete through extra lessons, even after school hours.

To counter this mindset, I give my own children the option of attending their teachers' guided revision sessions in school or being coached by me at home.

I do not expect extra attention from the teachers. But not all parents have this luxury.

All stakeholders have to come together to find workable solutions to help teachers better manage their working hours.

Lee Wei Yin (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2016, with the headline 'Teachers' overtime work driven by parents' expectations'. Print Edition | Subscribe