Teachers need more support to handle student discipline, workload: MPs

MOE is also working to help teachers with their mental health with multiple channels of support. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Four teachers' unions in Singapore get more than 1,000 cases of grievances a year, ranging from managing students' misbehaviour and abusive attacks from parents to work appraisals, mental health issues and career progression.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Nominated MP Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab said while the Government has been supportive in helping teachers resolve these issues, more can be done in three areas.

First, there needs to be more support for managing student discipline, he said.

Second, teachers can get more help in achieving better work-life balance.

And third, there is a need to reduce teachers' workloads.

The complaints from teachers were sent to Singapore Teachers' Union, Singapore Malay Teachers' Union, Singapore Chinese Teachers' Union and the Singapore Tamil Teachers' Union, he said.

Mr Abdul Samad also asked the Government to consider giving teachers a special bonus in recognition of their hard work during the Covid-19 pandemic, similar to the one nurses will get later this year for their front-line service.

The Ministry of Education's (MOE) move announced last month to introduce retention measures – including a pay bump of between 5 per cent and 10 per cent and a new pay grade for senior teachers – is a step in the right direction but there is still work to be done, he added.

Mr Abdul Samad, who is also an NTUC vice-president, made reference to a recent video clip that made the rounds on the Internet in which a St Andrew's Secondary School student was seen verbally abusing a teacher.

He said: "I call on the ministry to give guidelines or even empowerment to school principals and/or even the victimised teachers to report any rude or harsh incidents they face to the relevant authorities, as a means of self-protection from any abusive behaviours from both parents and students."

Echoing Mr Abdul Samad, Labour MP Patrick Tay (Pioneer) also spoke on behalf of the teachers' unions and education cluster of unions.

He, too, welcomed steps to increase teachers' salaries, but said remuneration is only part of the issue.

He said: "There are other areas such as career progression, learning and development opportunities as well as the work environment – good supervisors, supportive colleagues and understanding parents of students all play a part to attract and retain our educators."

To help address these issues, he put forward three suggestions.

First, educators need to be given opportunities to go on sabbaticals and take gap years for industry attachments outside the education service.

Second, he said setting of exam papers can be done at the group or cluster level to save time, instead of each school coming up with its own internal assessment.

Third, he asked for improvements in work conditions to be extended to all other educators, including those in the polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education (ITEs), adding that some private firms had already conducted pay reviews.

He said: "All these will go a long way to give an assurance to our educators that, whether they're from the public or private sectors, that their role in educating our future generations is recognised and valued."

Responding, Minister of State for Education and Manpower Gan Siow Huang said the polytechnics and ITEs are reviewing their employees' salaries.

She added that MOE is also working to help teachers with their mental health through multiple channels of support.

Ms Gan said: "Our educators are the pillars of our education system.

"MOE is committed to ensuring that they continue to be well supported and their workload remains manageable."

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