SINGAPORE — If a student approaches a teacher with personal problems, the teacher shouldn’t say: “Sorry, it is not my work because I only need to teach you”, as it is their job to guide students through their education journey holistically, Second Minister for Education Maliki Osman said.
Dr Maliki outlined this expectation of the nation’s teachers in Parliament on Wednesday (Feb 7) in an exchange with Mr Louis Ng on teachers’ workloads.
Mr Ng, a Member of Parliament for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency, had asked for results on the Education Ministry’s most recent review of teachers’ workloads.
Earlier, Dr Maliki said the work hours reported by teachers have remained stable in the past few years, and that the ministry will continue to monitor their workload through surveys and staff engagements.
Mr Ng then asked several follow-up questions on the ministry’s approach to reducing the amount of non-administrative work for teachers, saying that they are also required to do counselling work due to a shortage of school counsellors.
“And then now we’re asking them to be wellness ambassadors as well to help provide a listening ear to their fellow colleagues.
“So I sincerely hope again we can make sure that teachers can focus on teaching rather than adding (on to their workload),” Mr Ng said.
In response, Dr Maliki stressed the need to look at teaching from a holistic point of view, as the job’s scope does not entail only teaching in the classroom but also counselling, befriending, and mentoring.
He explained that this was because students need to be taught life skills. So, when a child has a problem, the teacher can approach them by being there for them and offering guidance.
“(From) a larger perspective, a teacher is one who is there to guide the student, go through the education journey holistically so that the students also understand that the teacher is available at any point in time,” said Dr Maliki.
He added that this applies to all school teachers, whether they are subject teachers or co-curricular activity instructors.
The issue of teachers’ workload is a perennial issue that found its way into the spotlight in recent years in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Teachers TODAY has spoken to previously cited the lack of work-life balance, low pay, and heavy responsibilities as issues they face in their careers.
Mr Ng has raised the issue of teachers’ workload several times in Parliament since 2022.
In July 2022, the ministry said it would increase support for schools by reducing administrative work and offering support for teachers required to undertake certain administrative duties such as taking attendance or organising learning programmes.
While some of these tasks extend beyond classroom teaching, the ministry added that they are an essential part of a teacher’s responsibility and should not be totally outsourced, as they contribute to the holistic development of students.