SINGAPORE - Instructors and coaches in schools who have had their income disrupted by the suspension of co-curricular activities (CCAs) can opt to get paid ahead of work done, as schools look at alternative ways to hold such classes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The move, part of a new contract announced on Thursday (May 14), is to ease the economic pain of instructors, who are usually paid on completion of their work instead of a fixed monthly salary.
Some were already eligible for government help under this year's Budget measures, which, for instance, hand out $9,000 in cash over nine months to the self-employed.
But the latest option promises further support as the school holidays draw to an end on June 1.
The contract was negotiated between the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the NTUC National Instructors and Coaches Association.
It is not yet determined whether and how CCAs will resume.
The ministry said schools will gradually explore alternative ways of conducting these activities, such as using e-modes or class-based approaches "when the situation allows for it". This will allow instructors to get paid for their work.
Under the new contract, instructors and coaches can extend their contracts by up to a year, but no later than December 2021.
This assures them of work and income beyond this year and gives them more time to fulfil their existing contracts.
CCA instructors who opt for early payment will receive 40 per cent of their annual contract value, capped at $3,000 per instructor per contract. They will be paid in two tranches - in June and November this year.
Non-CCA instructors will get a single payment in June as their contracts are typically shorter or on a more ad hoc basis, MOE said.
Companies with contracts for multiple instructors will receive the money on behalf of their instructors from schools, and are encouraged to pass this on to them.
The ministry added that if CCAs and other activities are allowed to resume for the rest of the year after a contract is extended, schools will pay instructors more if they have to work in excess of the hours stipulated in the contract.
Mr Tohari Paijan, who coaches Angsana Primary School's football team, said the option is a welcome announcement in these uncertain times.
The 62-year-old said: "With no sports action, many school coaches are deprived of income. Some are heavily reliant on coaching for their livelihood, so every bit counts and any help will be beneficial.
"It is good that the MOE has the instructors in mind and wants to help us through this initiative, but I hope things will go back to normal and CCAs can resume soon."
Other instructors have been preparing e-lessons during the school holidays, to keep up with the changed circumstances.
Mr Yong Chee Foon, president of the Choral Directors’ Association, said the association has been organising sessions for choir conductors in Singapore so that those with more experience in conducting lessons on Zoom can share their knowledge. There are 70 to 80 such conductors here.
“The new contract reassures me that I’ll still have a job next year,” said the 46-year-old, who is a choir instructor at five secondary schools and a junior college.
Conducting classes online have its limitations, he said. For instance, the choir cannot sing together on Zoom which limits the number of people who can speak at any one time.
Lag time also makes it difficult to be in sync, but there are ways to work around such issues, he added.
“Students can record themselves singing, based on their comfort level, and send them to instructors for feedback. It is also possible to feed recordings into software so different voices in the choir are harmonised,” he said.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday that his ministry will "encourage schools to find ways to engage the coaches and instructors, when school is scheduled to open in June, after the circuit breaker period".
He added: "They can deliver their services digitally and remotely, or teach at a class level with no intermingling of students."
The new contract option will not be available for curricular-related contracts, like the Arts & Music Instructor Scheme, which can continue, with adjustments, in the ongoing public health crisis.
Companies and instructors should hear from schools starting from May 25, or may contact the schools after May 25 on the Education Ministry's website.
- Additional reporting by David Lee