Monday, May 24, 2010

Are teachers overworked?

Lionel Lee posted this comment in my previous posting:

There is a big issue in the yahoo post. There is a big issue of 3000 commentaries on the follwing: Please do a write up on this issue as it is a hot topic among the netizens since the last 2 weeks but I have yet to see your perspective on it.

Keep up the good work.

I went through the original letter by Ms Aishah Quek and the Yahoo article:

1. Primary school teachers sometimes work from 7am to 8pm due to guard duties in the morning and remedial lessons after school hours.

2. While the actual school sessions are short, they have to put in extra hours for marking assignments, remedial lessons and a whole host of administrative tasks.

As a result of the long hours, many feel drained and strained.

For the friends I have who entered teaching in Primary & Secondary school most don't last too long. I have 3 friends teaching in the poly and they feedback that "life is not bad"...quite good in terms of workload and balance. Many see it as a transition job because the progress is limited and a few complain of stress. A few years ago, I thought the MoE wanted to hire TA (teacher assistants)[Link] to relieve the teacher's burden. So I think the problem is specific to primary, secondary and may be JC teachers. Overworking teachers may be a bigger problem than overworking an IT guy or a finance guy. The IT feller can just move on to another company doing a similar job if he doesn't like it so can the finance feller. But teachers are under the employment of MoE so they either stick to teaching or leave teaching. The 2nd problem is teaching has limited progress - that is why you lose people when you overwork them. The financial incentives dangled for other jobs and potential career advancements make people accept some level of overwork. My lawyer friend has slept in his office for the past 1-2 weeks because of a big case but if he makes to partner in a few years he will be set for life so he doesn't mind - it was understood that he will be overpaid and overworked when he took up the job.

I always thought that teaching should be a stable, interesting job for people who love it..and are not driven primarily by financial incentives. If it is true that they are overworked, something has to be done. It is a real loss if we train teachers only to overwork them and lose them to other sectors. Teachers should concentrate on teaching and a large part of it is interacting with students for the 6 hours or so. The guard duties, remedial lessons and administrative loads can be eased by hiring of assistants - 1 for every 2-3 teachers? - and that will ultimately lead to better quality of primary and secondary school education.

The issue has set off heated debates on the Internet with some people finding it hard to believe teachers are overworked because of the school sessions and holidays. I think it is good that the issue has surfaced so that these perceptions can be corrected. One figure to look at is the turnover rate of teachers compared with those who are hired into the civil service. The turnover rate shouldn't be higher because there are many similarities between the two - they are suppose to be stable careers with a focus on important duties rather than monetary rewards...the govt went as far as giving teachers full medical benefits and pension schemes in the past so they can focus on all that is gone and the workload has increased.


Divali said...

MOE responded via the ST Forum Saturday but the following say it all:

"Teachers are encouraged to discuss their workload with their supervisors."

"..we encourage our teachers to make use of the different platforms THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO THE TEACHING FRATERNITY to provide feedback to MOE."

Anonymous said...

This kind of response is playing tai ji. It is stupid enough to think that teachers will go up to the superior and tell them that s/he has been overworked.This would affect teachers' performace report.
Totally crap!

Anonymous said...

I think singaporeans are too soft. Yes, there are moments the job maybe stressful, but that's part and parcel of working life. Situation has not deteriorate to deplorable condition. Work load is still manageble especially with a bit smartness. In any case, they have seen a pay rise in recent years to compensate for any unhappiness or are they demanding for more compensation or like the lawyer in lucky's story, would only go that extra mile for richer reward?

Anonymous said...

Working 12 hour or more a day and six days a week is very very common in SIN, so much so that we can even call it normal.

Most security personnels are on 12 or longer working for a meagre income. Most are above forty year old, more often than not these workers have to stand(physically) when doing their duties, under the sun, moon and rains. It is normal for them to have to patrol and do prowlings.

These guards are most likely parents(father/mother) and grandparents. Looking at the familial and social aspects of their live and it is obvious that most of their families are in tatters.

Their long working hours are very taxing to their bodies and spirits. Having to neglect their spouses and offsprings just to help in supplementing family incomes do not benefit these workers. In the long run he/she loses all the warmths and feelings of family.

The population of the security industry is much higher than the teaching profession. HOWEVER, the salaries of the guards are MUCH MUCH LOWER than teachers. And due to their low incomes(considered high by our LABOUR MINISTERS and their RUNNERS) family disputes and break-ups are common.

Teachers can afford domestic helps though their workloads will also affect their family/personal live, teachers fare much better in terms of work conditions and emoluments. I AM NOT SAYING THAT TEACHERS' WELFARES ARE NOT SUFFERING.
IN FACT, IN SIN, majority suffers, have You notice that shopkeepers take about one or two hours just to lay out their shops and to close it at the end of the day???

Me ends here as the dire situations of Singaporeans at the prevailing conditions may result in a book thicker than that writtened by our top dogs who sang so much praises for themselves.
I find myself too sick to proceed further with writing now.

patriot said...

As an insider to this issue, the workload is a deliberate attempt and derivative of office politics.

Most schools have all those meaningless meetings at least 4-5 hrs up to 10 hrs per week.

The PAP government do not want anything useful in meeting but as a tool for mind control. To humilate dissidents and to promote culture of "emperor new cloths".

And those who instigate meetings like P and VP have nothing to do AT ALL. They enjoyed all those clown role play show and skit as a way to show they are powerful.

They are playing exhaustion game on new teachers so that young capable people look stupid when suck dry and P and VP can look dignified. (nothing to do, sit and watch clown role play show)

The humilating appraisal system are some of the most unfair thing I have ever seen till this date.

In private sector, boss would not be that willing punish anyone who is capable and reward useless people.

In MOE, the reverse is true. MOE has such big cabal of old and useless HOD and "old bird" teachers whose is too willing to "set trap" for new teachers.

They hated young teachers because normally students like young guns than old fox who play politics and no good in IT.

The principal too support those old cabal because he himself is always the most useless people.

They have no qualms in killing talents.

You can ask teachers how many extra job they did is actually meaningful or pedagogical. Almost none.

And also did those useless HOD, old bird "gang up" teachers subject subjected to same humilation. No as well. said...

People would be fool to believe PAP wanted to educate Singaporean. PAP want singaporean to be as stupid as it is possible so elite would have a monopoly on knowledge.

They DON'T CARE for education of people in a deeper sense.

First, sometimes during 80s, PAP remove much world history from history ciriculum in secondary level.

Hence Singaporean are not aware of Enlightenment, English, American and French Revolution and those ideas, of Rosseau and Voltaire.

It was reverse somehow these years but it is still very much diluted compare to 70s.

Now we have 2 sets of system. Those of Elite schools and non elite schools.

This is to make sure non elite students are not able to compete for scholarships by giving elite students more informations.

Over the years, we have a much educated parents and students are much more clever. Yet the number going to NORMAL still hover around 40% no change over decades.

PAP hates to educate. They simply want students from less privileged family to go NORMAL and rot.

They want someone to go down the rubbish heap so that elite can sit and pee on them.

PAP strongly discourage draconian discipline of NORMAL stream and prefer students to be disruptive and learn nothing.

When elite who are stupid enough not being able to pick up 2nd language, PAP intervene.

I think PAPies should be burn in hell.

Anonymous said...

nowadays, teachers has so much to do other then teaching. Administrative, CCA, remedial, projects blah blah blah. No longer a 1/2 day work for anyone. Even evening and weekends, they have work to be completed, at home which is taking up all their personal and family time.

And after all this, you can still be considered as a minimal performer. Teaching well doesnt make you a good teacher in the eye of the Principal and MOE. What they want is your profile, what "EXTRA" stuff have you done for the year. I have friends who teaches very well but still awarded a big D during grading and the explanation is D is not under performed, but minimal performance.
I have other friends who switch to Part time teaching so that they only need to focus on teaching and no other nonsense. Of course there is a big difference in terms of pay but at least their passion for teaching will not be killed by overworked.

yamizi said...


I think many taxi drivers easily work more than 12 hours as well!

But I guess the security guards still draw very little pay comparing to taxi drivers and teachers.

Anonymous said...

pathetic softies. want more for less. said...

Re Anonymous 24/5/10 11:56
"pathetic softies. want more for less."

The "pathetic softies" are elites like Ho Peng boss of MOE (Ho Ching Sister). (many many many inside)

They are the greedy wicked person who are useless yet do not want anything less than CEO.

MOE screwed big time because there are so many useless big boss that hates capable young people.

In all Taiwan HK Japan produces Nobel and field medalist, or entrepreneurs.

What we produce?

MOE like to brag how good they are but they produces nothing but useless scholar.

because most of the MOE big boss are stupid elite who think they know how to teach.

Anonymous said...

"MOE screwed big time because there are so many useless big boss that hates capable young people."

"In MOE, the reverse is true. MOE has such big cabal of old and useless HOD and "old bird" teachers whose is too willing to "set trap" for new teachers.

They hated young teachers because normally students like young guns than old fox who play politics and no good in IT."

"They are playing exhaustion game on new teachers so that young capable people look stupid when suck dry and P and VP can look dignified. (nothing to do, sit and watch clown role play show)"

looks like a power tussle to me.

Anonymous said...

Like I said in previous post, only 2 ways for teachers: (1) vote opposition, and (2) prepare exit plan.

Coz if you want change only 2 ways, either got change of govt or change your destiny. Which one is more realistic? Besides, change of govt may not lead to change of education system.

If you feel that your life already sucks why continue to sit in your own shit & pee and continue to cry & complain? Your circumstances already so much better than others -- you have skills & knowledge in high demand in S'pore for kiasu parents.

Either you suck it in, play politics and wayang, and accept the $3.5++K pay (which is really not bad).
Or you sacrifice in order to prepare yourself for alternative exit plan. You will need to moonlight in order to gain mental / physical / logistics preparedness, and to build up the necessary networks. You will need to sacrifice your weekends and some week-nights. And yes, you will negatively affect your day-job as you have to reject or slow-down or non-perform your CCAs / projects / etc in order to conserve energy for moonlighting.

You have to decide whether you want to play the game and fight for your $200-$300 annual increment, or get prepared to independantly survive outside of the system.

Anonymous said...

I have friends who are teachers who are perfectly happy because they keep out of the "politics". I've heard interesting stories of politicking amongst the teachers, prinipals and HODs - it's not a very healthy culture due to the type of individuals in the organisation. If you read the comments, the teachers are not unhappy about their workload; they are unhappy about fellow teachers backstabbing and politicking. Politics happens in every organisation - not only teaching. You just learn to cope with it. But I suspect the amount of backstabbing and politicking amongst teachers and HODs is 10x worse than a normal corporate. And now, all the dirty linen is aired for all to see.

Anonymous said...

When Teacher A sees Teacher B who is his peer get promoted to HOD. Teacher A becomes jealous and start to gossip and say bad things about Teacher B. Teacher A refuse to do things for Teacher B even though Teacher B is the Head of Department. This is the sort of stories I hear from my teacher friends. Such situation happens in every organisation. One just have to realise that not everyone can be promoted to be the head of an organisation or CEO. Teachers should just focus on teaching and not get too affected by who get promoted to HOD or how to "sabo" their HOD. After talking to many friends in different industries, I come to the conclusion teaching is one of the most political industry in Singapore where catfights and backstabbing is the norm. Perhaps, the school should come up with more HOD position so that everyone is happy and everyone can become a HOD? Haha.

Anonymous said...

Young teachers are being force to backstab and principal HOD LOVE to see that.

It give bosses alot more control over staff.

Its true that people say all except Jesus or Buddha man politic. Unfortunately it is 10x worse than outside, more than brothel and another other Harem in the world.

The reason is MOE put young teachers on the gullotine of old cabal.

MOE performance bonus is neva fair. Outside, you can be assured you get what you deserve.

The reason is below.

1) Cannot give D to scholar

2) Cannot give D to rich brad.
(just like SAF white horse system. Its there but you bet every elite is liar to deny)
3) Cannot give D to well connected person.

4) Try not to give D to Malay teacher. (Reasonable enough in our context as PAP screw minority with FT policy, they have to create government job for them-- PAP is really mad. solve one problem but creating a larger problem)

5)Cannot give D to old cabal teachers. (public job respect seniority)

6) cannot give D to pretty girl and aggressive man.(same in private sector but eunuch MOE P and VP is 10x less balls and more horney)

On the above conditions, around 30% of new teacher will get a D in 3 years. And MOE make the consequence of D serious.

And there are no way out if fxxking P and VP wants trouble from you.

They give you NT and then walk into your class tell you your student are badly behave because you are Fxxk up teacher. P and VP will also check teacher of NT class and screw teacher they don like using pretext their students not doing work.

If you are fierce enough and all students work, they will go to your class without knowledge and ask your students opinion about you.

Those fierce teacher will get screw when students give negative feedback. P and VP will then say that teacher demoralize student.

Anonymous said...

Mr Lucky

The ones teaching in Polys are "lecturers".
They have relatively good life and pay cos .. as u pointed out ... they can go back to he corporate world.

The *new\young* Pri & Sec teachers ... are clueless newbies. Fresh out of school themselves. Scared shitless of the "D" grade. Like sinkee voters when they see the serial number on their ballot.

When their skills are actually valuable either in tuition centers or OVERSEAS.

This is one lame article. U dun have to come out with an half-ars*d article just to pretend that u care.

Anonymous said...

My apology for veering off from the teaching profession. Do allow me to respond to Yamizi.

Indeed, many workers are working long hours. This includes many at management level, some of my friends who returned from oversea assignments had to make oral reports on arrival at Changi Airport late in the night or early morning.

Taxi drivers are self employed and do have flexibilities that no security guard will ever enjoy.

Men enjoys your interaction, thank You.


Anonymous said...

Some prisons are better than others but all are prisons:
See also this to understand why and how we have schools:

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 24/5/10 15:34: Politics are everywhere so long as there are more than one human beings in a team attempting to do something. How bad the politics depends on the top people's way of managing the team. Bad politics is just simply reflecting that sort of persons on top. The culture here is very very bad so as to nurture politics. This situation exists in most if not all government departments, agencies, GLCs, etc. The fundamental problem is: there is no social justice. That's why the famous advice given from the very very top is always: talk to your direct boss or supervisor. You are surely the eventual victim regardless of whether you are right in the first place. After you talk to your boss, the very top people will close-rank with your direct boss to further victimize you so you will be eventually the victim. To avoid such a system, just pack up and go. Who know? You will have 50% chance to have better life than staying put. WAKE UP.

sama sama said...

The climate in the teaching world is the same as cabin crew and pilots!

Yes, it is unbelievable!.. the political backstabbing is rampant in the aviation world.. and perpetuated by the immediate bosses.. classic!

My opinion is: leave all this behind and seek newer pastures. Its built into the system.. you become very cynical and watchfull over your shoulders everytime!


Wally Buffet said...


I thought insurance and property agents, politicians and used car salesmen were birds of the same feather.

Now after reading all these comments and more about the dirty linens hung up to dry in the teaching profession, I must admit that I have a strong desire to include it to the infamous list.

Anonymous said...

What the Heck!

Other than the poor, weak and sick, me thinks others in SIN are aptly SINNERS, me included lah.

A friend says all good people are in heaven, can't find any on Earth, cannot disagree with him.


Anonymous said...

If you think teachers are having a bad time, take a look at auditors.

Anonymous said...

There are auditors who quit and tried teaching, and went back to auditing, because auditors' lives are so much easier than teaching. You hear that?

PissScientist said...

I am a former teacher went back to private sector R&D. I can testify the wickedness of Singapore civil service is really beyond imagination.

I often have to work late in R&D sometimes 12. The problem may never be solvable, the math is difficult, the deadline is always near.

But R&D can be fun and peaceful for people with higher than average IQ. At least people around us submit ourselves and worship intellectual prowess to greater extend.

We can voice dissent and our boss will be smart enough to realize that our solution solves the problem optimally.

The exchange of opposite viewpoint in R&D is always direct and blunt, throwing out all human feelings.

Logic and truth is the king here.

In MOE, when you voice dissent, the boss will say you "not positive".

When MOE boss want to screw you, they go and tell you how bad how bad you are (no convincing evidence). Then they tell you actually they are helping you to improve. If you state your points, they say you are not humble, never want to admit mistake, and in this case deserve a D.

In those NA NT, MOE prefer students to be disruptive than study. If you force students to study, boss comes and tell you their logic. I got it in this way below

"you scold them, they get demoralized. they get demoralize, they do not want to study, they dont want to study, you know actually you are ruining other people's son future? I tell you you must improve, or else I cannot give you good grade (aka give D)"

Anonymous said...

I'm going to start teaching. I haven't even started serving my bond. Oh dear, please don't scare me like this. (T_T) I am easily stressed, I think I will die.

Anonymous said...

And I am given all the NT classes when I start teaching. =( I should have listened to my elder siblings and not signed the bond. They told me only stupid people teach. And now everyday, someone is calling me stupid. =(

Anonymous said...

The above show principal salary-- can be a whopping $200000 a year.

And many of the equivalent middle level civil servant is as well paid.

A HOD can get around $10000 a month. Many teacher of 5 years get $5000 a month.

The old bird in MOE has too much to lost if they lose their job. They must cling to their job.

We have the most expensive civil service in the world well bribe in middle level, so that no one wants to be whistle blower.

And many of these middle level man need to wack young man like you and me if we have no background so that it create an environment of terror.

Anonymous said...

The root of the problem, like the root of many other problems in Singapore, is that the resources have been squandered on the fat cats on top, leaving little for people who are actually doing the work, i.e. the teachers.

Why can't MOE hire more teachers and teacher assistants? Because they prefer to spend the money on superscale salaries for zo bo lan assistant directors and deputy directors. The role of these fat cats is to think of stupid time and money wasting programs with fancy names to pave their own career paths.

It's just like the SAF, an army with 100 generals but only 10 corporals.

How did it end up like that? I say it all thanks to the scholarship system. Surely you don't expect PSC scholars with their 20 distinctions and first class honours from twa kee universities to be lowly teachers or corporals. So you have to create all these superscale zo bo lan positions to promote them into.

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Anonymous said...

yeah i've been in the teaching service for 20 years ,i must say singapore teachers are the most pitiful and the worst bullied by the working system in the world....mentally,physically, psychologically bullied by the system...the worst job on earth...or universe....

teaching for donkey years said...

dedicated and true high-class teachers used to associate themselves with the -joy of teaching... but now after the stupid ranking system..teaching especially for the snakes...(now it is a snake pit-the worst in the career world)the joy of releasing venom... on the potential 5% "D" graders...resulting ..high calibre teachers..leave the profession....what a life.... pity the next generation.....

Anonymous said...

everybody must pray that the fella who invented or introduce the system of giving "D" to teachers -must he himself and his offsprings be cursed to become teachers and given the grade "D" and let them and him feel the "joy" of getting "D"...AMEN....

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