Events, CCAs, admin work add to burden

Primary 6 pupils of Punggol Primary School taking part in a mock press conference with English teacher Priyadakshini Surendiran. PHOTO: ST FILE

These days, teachers are assessed not just by how well they teach in a classroom, but by their ability to plan events, lead co-curricular activities (CCAs), and take on committee work. This contributes to long working hours, despite falling student numbers and more teachers recruited over the years.

An Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development survey in 2014 found that teachers here clock an average of 48 hours a week, 10 hours more than the global average. The results also showed that they spent almost twice the amount of time on marking and administrative work as their peers overseas.

These duties take up nine and five hours respectively per week here, compared with global averages of five and three hours.

A 48-year-old teacher said she spends weekends marking assignments, and sometimes even wakes up at 2am during the week to mark for about two hours before preparing to head to school. She added that extra work - from making PowerPoint slides to planning character development programmes - comes from superiors such as subject heads, year heads, senior teachers and vice-principals. "Last time, there weren't all these positions... I don't know if they coordinate (the) work they hand out," said the primary school teacher who joined the education service in 1995.

A secondary school head of department said part of the problem is that "extra manpower is not being used to offset the extra demands... A lot of tasks - like filling in risk assessment forms and engaging parents - are now essential, and we can't run away from them", said the 40-year-old.

But perhaps schools can be more flexible or creative with teacher deployment, considering there are more teachers today, he said. "We've substantially increased our teaching force to 33,000 today, yet there doesn't seem to be much reduction in our teaching hours."

But Madam Ira Wati Sukaimi, 44, a lead teacher at Mayflower Secondary School, said more has been done to support teachers since she joined MOE in 1994, such as hiring administrative staff to help with logistics and IT tasks.

Noting that new teachers today are also very well-guided, she said: "There is a structured mentoring process to ease them into school."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 23, 2016, with the headline Events, CCAs, admin work add to burden. Subscribe