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Why is teaching a competition when students have been taught that learning is not a competition? Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng posed this question during the Committee of Supply (COS) on Mar. 7.
Ng reiterated his previous call for a performance management system of stack ranking that is more standardised, transparent, fair, and formative for teachers.
"It seems contradictory that teachers are the ones telling students that students are no longer ranked and compared with their peers when they themselves are ranked and compared with other teachers."
He noted that the Ministry of Education (MOE) has been engaging with teachers on improving the performance management system towards building a "nurturing environment" for teachers.
After one year of further engagement, Ng said he hopes that MOE will:
- Remove the quota for grades;
- Provide objective criteria for certain performance grades, starting with A, C, and E;
- Remove punitive implications of getting lower grades; and
- Allow for professional development leaves for those who get C-minus grades
Stressed and overworked teachers
Ng revealed that a 2019 study found that the working hours of Singapore teachers are higher than the average of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
According to Ng, the average number of teachers seeking support through MOE's counselling service has almost doubled from before Covid-19.
Teachers have shared concerns about being stressed and overworked with the MP, including one who said she suffered "multiple anxiety attacks in school" but had to "put up a front to go back to class" because teachers are expected to show up for their students.
Ng asked if MOE would consider setting limits for teachers' working hours and workload. He also asked, besides enhancing parents' gateway, reducing coverage of national exams, removing some school-based exams, how MOE would further reduce teachers' workloads.
Staggered working hours for teachers
Ng noted that many teachers are parents themselves who have to prepare their children and send them to school every morning before rushing to their school.
One of his residents had told Ng that her school's principal did not allow her to work staggered hours.
However, Ng shared that he knows of other teachers who can do so, including one who sends his child to school before going to his school late.
He also said a teacher said she was allowed to leave school after 11:30am if there are no matters in school, whereas another school only allowed teachers to leave after 2:30pm even if they had no classes before that.
Ng concluded his speech by asking if MOE can require all schools to offer FWAs (flexible working arrangements), including staggered working hours, and allow teachers to leave if they have no matters to take care of in school.
MOE: Wellness ambassadors & constantly updating policies
In response to the concerns that Ng raised about the mental well-being of teachers, Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing said that MOE would continue to work towards having wellness ambassadors in all schools to strengthen the culture and care and peer support for teachers.
Chan said schools are also committed to ensuring that the workload remains manageable and that MOH will continue to take care of teachers' "mental well being and workload".
Staff well-being committees will place more emphasis on the mental well-being of teachers with support from MOE HQ, Chan added.
Chan said these efforts complement the free in-house counselling services at iCARE and the 24-hour whole-of-government counselling hotline.
Addressing Ng's questions on teacher appraisals, Chan said:
"We appreciate his concern for their well-being.
Our teachers are driven by a strong sense of mission and responsibility for our students, and it shows in their work and attitude.
Therefore, it is important for us to recognise and affirm deserving teachers, especially those who have gone beyond their call of duty.
Those who have excelled and those who have set the pace for the fraternity. At the same time, we need to identify teachers who require more support so that we can build and sustain an excellent workforce.
Our appraisal system must therefore ensure consistency and fairness in the ranking of our educators"
Chan assured Ng that MOE is constantly updating their policies so that all teachers can continue to have access to training programmes and "be guided to improve to better nurture students".
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Top image via Chan Chun Sing's Facebook page.
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