Chan Chun Sing says recruiting and retaining great teachers goes beyond salary and benefits

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On September 12, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing spoke in parliament about the efforts of the Ministry of Education (MOE) to attract and retain good and qualified teachers; through efforts beyond better rewards.

Responding to questions from PAP MPs Seah Kim Peng and Hany Soh, as well as Workers’ Party Dennis Tan, Chan highlighted MOE’s efforts to streamline teachers’ workloads and help ensure the resilience of current and future generations of students.

Not just about salaries and benefits

Chan said building a quality education service goes beyond salaries and benefits.

“MOE values ​​our teachers and pays great attention to their well-being and work-life balance,” Chan said. He paid tribute to the dedicated teachers who did their best for their students.

To help teachers manage their workload, schools and teachers have streamlined administrative tasks such as electronically registering attendance and giving schools flexibility to accelerate the implementation of new initiatives so they can focus on students. Teachers who need more flexibility in working hours can also request a part-time class arrangement.

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Meanwhile, schools have Staff Welfare Committees equipped with more resources, such as extra money to run wellness workshops and online resources for self-care.

Teachers are encouraged to share their concerns with their supervisors and have access to their school’s well-being ambassador, MOE’s in-house professional counseling services, and the 24/7 government-wide counseling hotline for support.

However, parents and the public also play a key role in teachers’ well-being, Chan said.

“By respecting teachers’ personal time and minimizing non-critical communication with teachers after working hours, parents and the public can work closely with teachers to establish positive partnerships and set appropriate expectations about teachers’ responsibilities for the development of our children.”

Parental expectations

In an additional question, Seah talked about reducing the administrative burden on teachers, and perhaps setting clear limits on when parents are allowed to communicate with their children’s teachers.

In response, Chan outlined the improvements made to the Pupil to Teacher Ratio (PTR) in Singapore.

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Comparing the 10-year period between 2010 and 2020, Chan said that the PTR of primary schools had gone from 19 to 15, and in secondary schools from 16 to 12; show good progress in teacher recruitment, both in quantity and quality.

Chan also noted the increase in allied educators, responsible for helping students with special needs, from 960 in 2017 to about 1,300 in 2021; and MoE worked on improving the numbers.

Need to maintain healthy parent-teacher relationships

Chan then responded to Seah’s second question and said that not all parents were difficult, just some. But a difficult parent can take up an inordinate amount of time, unfairly depriving others of their attention.

Chan paid tribute to some parent support groups and alumni groups that helped teachers and schools manage curriculum questions and were role models for parenting relationships.

Chan said parents should ask what was expected of teachers and what kind of environment they wanted to raise their children in.

He warned that too much emphasis on removing difficulties and uncertainty from students’ lives could hinder their ability to develop the ability to handle difficult situations.

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Clear expectations about the role of teachers are important for healthy parent-teacher relationships and for teachers to use their time wisely.

Workloads

In another supplementary question, Tan asked about revising recruitment plans to attract more teachers to the profession, and about increasing non-teaching manpower in schools.

Chan acknowledged the tight labor market and said people have “many choices”, but the government still recognizes the importance of investing in education to prepare future generations.

However, he added: “I think MOE has been very lucky that we’ve been able to recruit a decent proportion of the teachers and keep the quality bar high, and the quantity and quality have to come together.”

Chan also said reducing teachers’ administrative workload is not just a matter of increasing the number of people hired to perform administrative tasks, but also streamlining those processes.

Top image by MCI/YouTube & MOE/Facebook