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S’pore teachers work longer hours but are satisfied: Poll

SINGAPORE — On average, teachers here work longer hours — with more time spent on administrative tasks and extracurricular activities — compared with their overseas counterparts, an international study has found.

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SINGAPORE — On average, teachers here work longer hours — with more time spent on administrative tasks and extracurricular activities — compared with their overseas counterparts, an international study has found.

Still, almost nine in 10 of those surveyed said they are satisfied with their job, comparable to the international average.

The findings of last year’s Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Teaching and Learning International Survey, which were released yesterday, also showed that the Republic has the youngest teaching force across all the 34 countries involved in the survey, with an average age of 36 years — about seven years younger than the international average.

Correspondingly, a typical teacher here is less experienced, with an average of a decade of experience, compared with the international average of 16 years.

At the same time, Singapore has the highest proportion of teachers serving as mentors at 39 per cent, more than double that of the international average of 14 per cent. It also topped the charts in terms of teachers’ participation in professional development.

This is the first time that the Republic is participating in the survey, which was started in 2008 and is conducted once every five years. A total of 3,109 lower secondary teachers from almost all secondary schools here took part.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) said the findings showed Singapore has given priority to building a quality teaching force that is well-trained and supported, dynamic in its practice and committed to the profession.

Among other things, the ministry cited the fact that Singapore has one of the highest proportions of teachers who have been trained in actual classroom practices before becoming full-fledged teachers.

On the average age of teachers, the MOE pointed to the support given to young teachers, including induction and mentoring programmes. It added: “Our young teachers inject diverse perspectives and renewed energy into the teaching force. They contribute to innovative ways to engage students ... and in harnessing the potential of new technologies for teaching and learning.”

The survey showed Singapore teachers worked an average of about 48 hours per week — 10 hours longer than the global average. Japan was the highest at about 54 hours, with Chile the lowest at 29 hours.

Despite their longer hours, Singapore teachers spend fewer hours teaching (17), compared with the international average of 19 hours. On average, they spend more time on activities such as marking, lesson planning, administrative work and extracurricular activities.

Nevertheless, 88 per cent of those surveyed said they are satisfied with their jobs. The international average is 91 per cent. The proportion of Singapore teachers who felt the teaching profession was valued in their society was also the second-highest among the participating countries.

Mr Andreas Schleicher, OECD’s deputy director for education and skills, said Singapore teachers are paid relatively higher than teachers overseas. “The choice Singapore makes to prioritise the quality of teachers above things such as the size of classes or less working time is certainly a wise strategy to invest in scarce resources.” But he added that the additional time needed by local teachers for administrative tasks and marking showed there was room for reflection on structuring their workload more effectively.

Mr Wong Siew Hoong, MOE’s deputy director-general of education (curriculum), said yesterday that the ministry will support teachers’ workload, such as by having more allied educators. Currently, there is an average of seven allied educators in each primary and secondary school.

Teachers interviewed by TODAY said they work from 45 to more than 60 hours per week. Most of their time is spent on planning lessons, extra-curricular or co-curricular activities (CCAs) and other school activities. Some suggested that teachers be excused from CCAs, while others asked for better enforcement of their rest time.

Mrs Tan Chen Kee, Crescent Girls’ School principal, noted that non-teaching tasks could help in the holistic development of students. For example, being involved in CCAs helps teachers to nurture their pupils’ character.

Ms Low Pei Wen, 29, a Si Ling Secondary School teacher, who started teaching six months ago, sometimes spends more than 12 hours in school each day. But she attributed the long hours to the fact that she is new to the job and her desire to interact more with her students. She is also thankful to have a mentor in the form of a senior teacher, Ms Wang Pei Fen, 52.

Ms Wang said: “Having communication channels for teachers to feedback their workload and a good mentoring system where young teachers can raise their concerns, all these can help teachers to better manage their teaching load.”

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