SINGAPORE: Teachers in Singapore continue to work longer hours than the average in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, but the situation has improved, according to survey results released on Wednesday (Jun 19).
They reported working 46 hours per week in 2018, according to the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) of lower secondary school teachers. This is higher than the OECD average of 39 hours. The hours include those spent working out of school.
This makes Singapore teachers the seventh-hardest working educators in the survey of 48 education systems. Japan’s lower secondary teachers worked the longest hours, followed by Kazakhstan and those in Alberta, Canada.
A total of about 3,300 teachers and their principals from 157 public schools and 12 randomly selected private schools participated in the online survey.
REDUCTION IN ADMINISTRATIVE WORK
In 2013, when the survey was previously conducted, Singapore teachers worked a longer 48 hours per week.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said the time spent at work has dropped largely due to a reduction in administrative duties. The number of hours spent on such tasks fell from 5.3 hours a week in 2013 to 3.8 hours in 2018. This was however higher than the OECD average of 2.7 hours.
“The drop in amount of time teachers spend on administrative work is significant, because we’ve been working on these areas. Most significant, for example, is attendance marking on the app. That has helped save teachers time from marking,” MOE said.
Another common administrative task - getting consent forms signed for activities like learning journeys - has also been improved through an app that allows parents to give their consent electronically.
TIME SPENT MARKING ALSO LESS
Of the 46 hours, 18 were spent on teaching.
The hours teachers spend working also include lesson planning and preparation, co-curricular activities and marking. When it comes to marking, teachers are able to use an online platform that shows their students’ learning gaps, MOE said.
MOE said: “That will save time because what is important is for our teachers to be able to look at the gaps and address them.”
The teachers spent 7.5 hours a week marking in 2018, lower than the 8.7 hours in 2013. In comparison, their OECD colleagues spent 4.2 hours doing so.
When asked if Singapore will strive for the OECD weekly average of 39 hours, an MOE spokesperson said: “The question we will often be asked is ‘what is the right calibration’? I think the answer must be what we think we need to do for our students to make sure they are ready for the future. What number is the correct number? Nobody will be able to tell.”
He added that the ministry's focus is to make sure that teachers are well looked-after, and that when they are working hard, they are passionate about it, and feel good that they are helping students in as many ways as possible.
“Those are much more important factors than just how many hours,” he added.
LOWER SECONDARY TEACHERS A PASSIONATE BUNCH
The survey findings also showed that Singapore’s lower secondary teachers are passionate, MOE said. Almost all (98 per cent) lower secondary teachers in Singapore polled, indicated that they became teachers because the job allows them to influence the development of young people, and for about 70 per cent of them, teaching was their first career choice.
The findings also showed that the teachers are constantly honing their skills and enhancing their teaching practices and pedagogy, the spokesperson said.
OECD singled out Singapore as a country where “continuous professional development is ingrained in a school’s shared vision of professional learning”, the ministry added.
DESIRE FOR MORE TRAINING TO DEAL WITH SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS
However, some teachers felt the need for professional development in teaching students with special educational needs. In 2018, the percentage of teachers who indicated such a need was 20 per cent, compared to 15 per cent in 2013.
“This reflects the desire of our teachers to equip themselves with the necessary skills and competencies to better cater to the increasingly diverse learning needs of students, as our schools become more inclusive,” MOE said.
Currently, all schools have a core group of teachers equipped with skills to teach students with mild special educational needs.
The proportion of teachers who have participated in professional development on teaching students with special needs increased from 23 per cent in 2013 to 35 per cent in 2018.
Teachers here have also increasingly been using practices that encourage deeper learning, and are more confident in using a variety of assessment practices, according to the survey.
They are also devoting more effort in providing qualitative feedback. In 2018, 77 per cent of the teachers surveyed provided written feedback in addition to a mark, compared to 72 per cent in 2013. The 2018 OECD average was 58 per cent.
Director-General of Education Wong Siew Hoong said that MOE is heartened the teachers are passionate about developing students to their fullest potential.
“Being lifelong learners ourselves is what will put teachers in the best position to help students become future-ready and more importantly, want to keep learning throughout life too. The survey findings have also provided us with valuable insights into areas that we can work on, as we continue to support teachers in the important work that we do,” he said.