Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong asked the Minister for Education whether the Ministry is considering other measures besides pay increase to enhance the working conditions for teachers including concerns over workload and long hours, such as adding more staff.
Mr Chan Chun Sing: Mr Speaker, Sir, first, let me thank Members of this House for the concern over the well-being of our educators. MOE is mindful that the quality of education depends on the strength of our teaching force, and teachers’ well-being is critically important to our mission to teach, inspire and nurture future generations. We are heartened by the public support for the salary and benefits adjustments to MOE-specific schemes, so that our educators continue to be competitively remunerated. These adjustments will apply to all MOE staff, including MOE teachers seconded to other agencies such as special education schools.
Mr Speaker, Sir, having said that, building a quality teaching service goes beyond salaries and benefits. MOE values our teachers, and pays close attention to their well-being and work-life balance. Many of our dedicated teachers go above and beyond the call of duty for our students. To help teachers manage their workload, we have supported schools and teachers by streamlining administrative processes such as taking attendance electronically, centrally providing services such as demand aggregation for common purchases and giving schools greater flexibility to pace the implementation of new initiatives. This allows teachers to focus their time on student-centric work, including CCAs and counselling.
Schools have also implemented more flexible work arrangements for teachers where feasible, while maintaining the duty of care towards students. This includes holding virtual or hybrid afternoon meetings where meaningful and effective and allowing teachers to leave school when they have no further duties that require them to be in school. Teachers who require greater flexibility in work hours can also apply for part-time teaching arrangements.
Schools’ Staff Well-Being Committees have also been provided with more resources to enhance staff well-being, such as additional Staff Welfare Funds and in-house curated resources to help them organise meaningful programmes for staff. Teachers may also take part in well-being workshops, talks and webinars and access online resources to help learn about self-care and support for one another.
Teachers are encouraged to share their concerns with their supervisors and school leaders or with the superintendent overseeing their school. They can also tap on other channels for support, such as the school’s Wellness Ambassadors, MOE’s in-house professional counselling services and the 24/7 whole-of-Government counselling hotline.
Beyond MOE and schools, our parents and other stakeholders can also play critical roles in supporting our teachers’ well-being. For example, by respecting teachers’ personal time and minimising non-critical communication with teachers outside work hours, parents and the public can also work closely with teachers to establish positive partnerships and set appropriate expectations on the teachers’ responsibilities for our children’s development.
MOE will continue to work with school leaders and the public to keep workload manageable for our teachers and to support their well-being. This will ensure that teaching continues to be a meaningful and fulfilling career and that we can continue to attract and retain good teachers to help mould the future of our nation.
Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong (Hougang): Speaker, I thank the Minister for his answers. I have two supplementary questions.
Firstly, I would like to ask the Minister whether there are any plans to review our current teacher recruitment efforts to attract more people to join teaching as a profession.
Secondly, the Minister talked about enhancing the resources. I would like to ask specifically whether there are any plans to review and enhance administrative non-teaching manpower resources in schools so as to reduce the workload on teachers.
Mr Chan Chun Sing: Mr Speaker, Sir, on the first question on teacher recruitment, MOE has been very fortunate that we have been able to recruit our fair share of teachers and to hold up the quality bar because the quantity and the quality must come together. So, we have been pretty fortunate and will continue to intensify efforts to make sure that we continue to have a fair share of the best people in every cohort to become teachers.
Of course, all Members of the House would know that, as we speak now, the labour market is tight. Our people have many choices. But we will still want to have our fair share of talent invested in the Education Service, just like how our forefathers did, because we believe that this is the best investment for the next generation – to put a fair share of the best people into the teaching service so that we can groom the next generation and we will continue to do that.
But having said that, I think it goes beyond the pay. It is about systems, culture, how we respect our teachers that engender more who want to join the service in service of our children and nation. So, we will continue to do that.
On the second supplementary question, I have addressed it earlier. Yes, we will continue to recruit more people to help out in the non-teaching tasks. But having said that, we will also work to streamline our own processes to make sure that we make the best use of the resources available, besides the structures and organisation issues, then we go back to the issues of how we build this shared relationship with parents and the community to bring out the best in our children.
Ministry of Education
12 September 2022