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Cap on teachers' work hours 'unrealistic' as some will still exceed call of duty for students: Chan Chun Sing

SINGAPORE — A hard cap on teachers' working hours is "unrealistic" as some teachers will still want to go beyond the call of duty to help students, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Monday (March 7).

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing speaking in Parliament on March 7, 2022.
Education Minister Chan Chun Sing speaking in Parliament on March 7, 2022.

SINGAPORE — A hard cap on teachers' working hours is "unrealistic" as some teachers will still want to go beyond the call of duty to help students, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Monday (March 7).

Mr Chan said that the Government tried to alleviate the workload of teachers by partnering them or not overly burdening them with unrealistic expectations.

“(But) I think it’s also very unrealistic for us to put such a cap on our teachers.

"And even if I do, I don’t think my teachers will stop just because they consciously calculate that ‘my time is up and therefore I will not respond to this high-need student of mine’,” said Mr Chan during the Parliamentary debate on his ministry's spending.

He was responding to a clarification sought by Dr Wan Rizal, the Member of Parliament for Jalan Besar Group Representation Constituency, who had asked if the Ministry of Education (MOE) would consider a hard cap on teachers’ working hours as their work, such as marking, tended to go beyond working hours.

In response, Mr Chan said that he had posed similar questions on the practicality of imposing a cap on working hours to teachers he met and had been "heartened” by their responses. Mr Chan did not elaborate on the responses provided by teachers.

Mr Chan acknowledged that teachers work “way beyond” what is expected of them when taking care of children.

He raised the example of teachers at NorthLight School in Balestier, which focuses on providing vocational skills to students who are less academically inclined.

At NorthLight School, teachers have "no cap whatsoever" when dealing with “a very challenging group of students”.

These students sometimes get into trouble with their families or get kicked out of their homes in the middle of the night, said Mr Chan.

“But guess what — so many teachers in NorthLight gave their personal handphone numbers to their students to call them if they ever get into trouble outside school or if they ever got kicked out of their homes.

“And we have teachers who have responded in the middle of the night — way past midnight — to pick up a student to take care of them,” he said.

Mr Chan added that the way in which teachers attended to their students even after their work hours was "immeasurable". It “speaks to the quality of (Singapore’s) educational workforce" and made the education system continue to function notwithstanding the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

Mr Chan said that MOE will continue to look at how to lighten the workload of teachers by reviewing the curriculum and applying new technology.

“But I think it’s also not realistic for us to therefore say that every teacher should not work more than ‘X’ hours because their conditions are different.  

“The types of students they are managing are different and I have seen all my teachers, including the very good teachers and counsellors in NorthLight, going way beyond their call of duty in order to take care of all our children,” he added.

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