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More teachers sought support through counselling services since COVID-19 pandemic started: Chan Chun Sing

More teachers sought support through counselling services since COVID-19 pandemic started: Chan Chun Sing
File photo of students in a classroom in Singapore. (Photo: TODAY)

SINGAPORE: More teachers in Singapore have sought support through counselling services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Tuesday (Feb 15).

An average of 40 teachers per year sought support through the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) in-house counselling services from 2017 to 2019, before COVID-19. That average number rose to about 70 per year in the last two years, the minister said in a written parliamentary answer on Tuesday.

"As an additional channel of support, the whole-of-Government counselling hotline was rolled out in March 2021, with about 90 MOE staff using the hotline last year across both MOE schools and HQ," he added.

Mr Chan was answering a question from MP Louis Ng (PAP-Nee Soon) on the number of teachers who have sought counselling services over the past five years.

"MOE recognises the exceptional demands that COVID-19 has placed on the entire education system, and our teachers in particular have to shoulder many more duties to keep school safe while still ensuring learning continues for our students," the minister said.

“MOE has therefore made adjustments both at system-level and school-level to reprioritise initiatives and school programmes to pace out work for the teachers to better support them."

During the "circuit breaker" period in 2020, home-based learning was implemented as part of the Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, there have been periods of home-based learning and a hybrid learning model has been used in schools. 

Last November, Mr Chan said the workload of teachers have “more than doubled” to keep the school system going amid the pandemic.

To switch seamlessly from in-person lessons to home-based learning, teachers need to spend “a lot of time” preparing more than two sets of lesson plans, he noted.

Teachers also need to take care of students with higher needs, including those who need to return to school during home-based learning, while performing the role of contact tracing teams.

"The well-being of our teaching staff is of paramount importance to MOE," Mr Chan said on Tuesday.

"We provide a range of resources to support their well-being, including professional development courses, avenues for peer support, and free counselling services which are available to all staff when needed."

The ministry also introduced a new initiative on Wellness Ambassadors in September last year, to enhance mental health support for teachers.

Under the initiative, nominated staff members were trained to provide "basic peer support and encourage their peers to seek help where necessary".

Additionally, teachers can access Mindline at Work, an online platform that provides self-care and well-being tips and resources, which are “tailored to meet the needs of individual users”, Mr Chan said.

“Teachers can also attend sharing sessions and workshops on teachers’ well-being offered by MOE,” he added.

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Source: CNA/ga(mi)

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