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Teachers in Singapore command high pay but work long hours, says international survey

SINGAPORE — Teachers in the Republic have the second longest working hours — topped only by New Zealand — a global survey of 35 countries has found. But they are also paid almost twice as much as the public think.

A Mathematics class with students from Woodgrove Primary School. The survey by education charity Varkey Foundation found that Singaporean teachers polled report that they are working longer hours per week (52 hours) than any other country aside from New Zealand (52.1 hours).

A Mathematics class with students from Woodgrove Primary School. The survey by education charity Varkey Foundation found that Singaporean teachers polled report that they are working longer hours per week (52 hours) than any other country aside from New Zealand (52.1 hours).

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SINGAPORE — Teachers in the Republic have the second longest working hours — topped only by New Zealand — a global survey of 35 countries has found. But they are also paid almost twice as much as the public think.

In fact, Singapore is one of only three countries — alongside Italy and Finland — in which the actual wage received by teachers is significantly higher than what the teachers themselves perceived to be fair.

According to the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Status Index 2018 that was released on Thursday (Nov 8), the actual starting salary for a secondary school teacher here is US$50,249 (S$68,954). The public, however, estimates the annual starting salary to be US$28,021 — resulting in the largest gap between estimated and actual wages of teachers of any country polled.

At the same time, Singaporean teachers polled said that the wage they consider fair for a starting secondary school teacher is US$36,633 — far less than the actual wage of US$50,249 they receive.

The survey by education charity Varkey Foundation also found that Singaporean teachers polled report that they are working longer hours per week (52 hours) than any other country aside from New Zealand (52.1 hours).

But, the public underestimates the number of hours teachers here work. By their reckoning, teachers here work 45.33 hours per week.

Actual teacher wage comparisons 2013-2018. Source: The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Status Index 2018

The 2018 survey, which follows on from the first index produced five years ago in 2013, polled 1,000 members of the public and up to 200 teachers in each of 35 countries around the world.

It aims to measure key indicators such as the status of teachers in their home countries, including the public perception of the profession and salaries.

The inaugural 2013 index, which showed a decline in the statuses of the teachers across the world, led to Mr Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, to establish the Global Teacher Prize in 2014 with the aim of raising the profession’s profile.

According to the survey, Singaporeans rate their education 7.12 out of 10 — the third highest of all the countries surveyed after Finland (8) and Switzerland (7.2). This represents an increase on Singapore’s 2013 score of 6.7 out of 10.

The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Status Index 2018

The Global Teacher Status Index 2018 also found that just 31 per cent of Singaporean parents would “probably or definitely encourage their children to become teachers”, a smaller proportion than in 2013, when 35 per cent of parents said the same.

“This makes Singapore one of only eight countries (including the UK, Japan, New Zealand, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and South Korea) in which fewer people said they would encourage their children to become teachers in 2018 than in 2013,” said the Varkey Foundation in its report.

The survey found that just 31 per cent of Singaporean parents would “probably or definitely encourage their children to become teachers. Source: The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Status Index 2018

At the same time, the survey also found that almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of Singaporeans say that pupils here respect their teachers — the sixth highest of all the countries surveyed and a considerable increase from 2013’s survey, when only 47 per cent of respondents said the same.

“This index finally gives academic proof to something that we’ve always instinctively known:  the link between the status of teachers in society and the performance of children in school,” said Mr Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation.

He added: “Now we can say beyond doubt that respecting teachers isn’t only an important moral duty — it’s essential for a country’s educational outcomes.”

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