A group of Singaporean school children listen attentively to their teacher who stands next to a model control tower on a field trip to Changi airport (Source : Shutterstock).

Happy Teachers’ Day! But why are the teachers leaving their jobs?

Today is Teachers day where teachers have a day off to celebrate the importance of the country’s educators and to recognise their efforts to nurture the future generations. However, more and more teachers are turning to tuition centres as their choice of career.

Why is that so? Is it because of the money?

Just last year, Ministry of Education (MOE) announced  that up to 30,000 serving Education Officers (EO) are eligible for an increment of 4 to 9 per cent in their monthly salaries. On top of that, an annual Special EO Payment for all trained EOs will also be introduced as a form of recognition for EOs. The sum of S$500 to S$700 in cash will be paid out each September from 2016, and will replace the current Learning and Development Scheme.

Despite the move to retain teachers, many are still giving up their work to become full-time tutors. Many have shared that the reason behind this is because teachers are burdened by so many administrative works, in addition to their core duty. They are required to conduct remedial, one-on-one student consultations and supplementary lessons in the holidays. They also need to attend school meetings, department meetings, level meetings, committee meetings and parent-teacher meetings.

Almost every teacher are complaining about poor work-life balance. They are usually at school at 7 am, however, they do not leave school earlier than 5 pm, some even stay until 8 pm as they have other responsibilities. After returning home, they still need to work late into the night at home, marking assignments and tests. To make it even worse, there are also the weekly CCA duties which take place in the afternoons and evenings after school, or even on weekends.

Most teachers say that they work around 60 to 70 hours on average in a week, including weekend, however, this number does not take into consideration staying overnight for camps or going overseas for school trips.

Other than the administrative and CCA duties, teachers also need to stay connected with parents. A teacher shared his story that teachers who has been in service long enough would have a story to tell about insufferable or unrealistic parents they need to deal with.

This means that even though the salary is considered to be decent, it may not be worth the long hours they spend and the mental burden that comes with the job.

The amount of money that a teacher can earn as a tution teacher is also an attractive pull factor.

Taylor, an MOE teacher with children, said, “The market rate for tuition is $70 per hour if you’re an MOE teacher. But I have friends who are charging $80 to $90 per hour. That’s very, very good money. Some famous teachers conduct group tuition sessions and earn at least $10,000 a month.”

Penelope, an MOE teacher with children, also said, “Some of the advantages of tuition are the flexibility of time, being able to focus on teaching without being bogged down by other duties and tasks, especially class management, and being able to exercise control over which students I want to help. I have a soft spot for the weaker students. And of course, you earn an hourly rate that’s much higher than an MOE teacher’s”

The downsides of being a full-time tutor for mothers are that they need to work during the time that their children are at home and tuition students can cancel their lessons with the teachers and their income may vary.

One common complaint that teachers have with MOE is that the people who work in MOE Headquarters used to be teachers themselves. However, when they start to work in the HQ, they forget what it is like to be on the ground and start to come up with policies which are demanding and sometimes unachievable.

“I think MOE really has to reconsider our workload. It really is too much. They can keep upping our salary and dishing out bonuses, but when teachers are not happy and healthy, they will leave,” said Penelope.

Instead of a happy greeting card to say a happy Teachers’ Day, TOC decides to re-highlight the issues faced by teachers in their daily work. Happy Teachers’ Day from all of us here at TOC.