Teachers working less, teaching more: Survey
MOE attributes improvement to reduced administrative work
Teachers here continue to work longer hours than their peers in other countries, but the situation has improved from a half-decade ago, a global survey published yesterday found.
Of the 48 education systems covered by the five-yearly Teaching and Learning International Survey, Singapore teachers were seventh for most hours worked, down from third in 2013 when the study was last conducted.
Including time spent working outside school, teachers here clocked about 46 hours a week, seven more than the average 39 hours.
This is two fewer than the 48 reported five years ago, which the Ministry of Education (MOE) attributed largely to reduced administrative duties.
In its third cycle, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study polled about 260,000 teachers worldwide on a wide range of topics, including demographics, teaching practices and professional development.
In Singapore, 3,280 lower secondary teachers and 167 principals from all 157 secondary schools and 12 randomly selected private schools, took the online survey between September and October 2017.
Japan topped the chart for the longest hours, with teachers there working 56 hours a week, followed by Kazakhstan (48.8) and Alberta, Canada (47).
While teachers here spent an hour more each week on actual teaching than in 2013, the 18 hours weekly still fell short of the OECD average of 21 hours.
Similarly, while the time spent on administrative work, marking and lesson preparation fell, they were still more than the OECD averages.
MOE said it has taken steps to ease teachers' administrative duties and regularly reviews the manpower resourcing to schools. Technology like apps that facilitate attendance marking and signing consent forms has also streamlined processes.
"In addition to full-time teaching staff, every school is resourced with a team of Allied Educators, who perform various functions such as counselling to support our students in their learning needs," said an MOE spokesman.
Orchid Park Secondary School (OPSS) principal Shawal Hussin said administrative work has always been the top complaint among teachers.
He told The New Paper that for a long time, schools have been looking to reduce this, and at OPSS, non-critical tasks such as arranging logistics are offloaded to support staff as much as possible.
Students also help to lift the burden by organising school events, such as the annual cross-country, which teachers usually spend a lot of time and energy on, said Mr Shawal, 50.
But some tasks like keying in examination scores can be done only by teachers, and Mr Shawal said additional responsibilities such as co-curricular activities could be one reason for the longer hours here.
He said: "A Singapore teacher is an educator in all aspects, not just for the subject matter. Time is needed for proper planning, engagement and for proper teaching and learning to take place... a teacher's work is never done."
When asked if there are plans to reduce working hours further, MOE said there is no magic number and it would not be meaningful to define a target.
"We value our teachers' commitment to the profession as well as their dedication to their students, and their well-being is important to us," it said.
Other findings from the study showed that the teaching force here is relatively young and passionate. The average age is 38, and nearly all those surveyed said they joined the profession to influence the development of young people.
While Singapore teachers had fewer years of experience compared to the OECD average, the study found they were better trained and mentored.
Reflecting a desire to cater to increasingly diverse learning needs, one in five called for more training in teaching special needs students.
Director-general of education Wong Siew Hoong said: "We are heartened that our teachers are passionate about developing students to their fullest potential."