The Big Read: What Can Make Our Teachers Happier and Less Overworked? I’m looking at you parents


In 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, they had the added task of conducting contact tracing, making sure students show up for online classes, and doing their best to keep them engaged despite being behind a screen.

Because home learning is the norm, older teachers said they had trouble adapting to the technology, although younger teachers like Sandra said it wasn’t difficult to adapt.

“But now it’s easier because we have the Student Learning Space (SLS) platform where teachers from different schools can upload their class materials and access the materials of others,” Sandra said.

“So we only have to make minor adjustments to fit our classes, which makes it easier to integrate technology into our classes compared to two years ago.”

While policies differ between schools as COVID-19 becomes endemic, some will switch to home schooling if more than five students become infected – so the SLS platform and years of practice have helped ease the transition.

Referring to teachers’ feedback on workload, MOE noted that teachers need to prepare students for the “complex environment” that the world has become. And that means that teachers need to “spend time and effort developing the skills needed” to prepare students for the future of work.

To that end, the ministry said it had “increased action and improved support for schools to manage teachers’ workloads and promote their well-being”.

Among other things, it “calibrated the implementation of initiatives and the participation of schools in the work of the headquarters and in pilot projects”.

It added: “Schools have the flexibility to expedite implementation of selected initiatives, including deferring implementation, if it helps manage staff workloads.”

The MOE has also provided principals with guidelines for managing teacher workloads. These cover areas including assigning teachers to CCAs and school committees, and “protected time off” for teachers during school holidays to “ensure teachers have time to rest and recharge”.

To relieve the administration, the ministry also offers “increased central services” such as support for complex procurement and financing issues.

The MOE noted that all schools have an administrative team to help with administrative and operational tasks and that schools are also given additional funding to hire more administrative staff when needed.

The use of technology will also be encouraged to streamline administrative processes, the ministry said. For example, teachers can now monitor and track student attendance using cell phones, or collect consent forms and share information with parents through Parents’ Gateway, a mobile application.

The ministry reiterated that it “regularly reviews our staffing to ensure each school has adequate resources and will take steps to provide support and review teacher workloads where necessary”.

In terms of staffing, some of the teachers surveyed were also interested in smaller classrooms, along with MOE’s move to make mainstream schools more inclusive.

Mabel said: “Children with special needs may need more help and we also need to help their classmates understand concepts like special needs. This adds to our workload as we don’t have the time to dedicate to all students and I don’t want to fail in teaching my students.”

On the benefits of smaller classrooms, Mr Ng added, “If one or two students don’t understand a topic, I can just interrupt the lesson and focus on that topic without having to leave other kids behind to keep the entire class engaged.” With fewer students, it’s also easy to connect with them.”

MOE said it takes a “needs-based resource approach, channeling more teachers to support smaller class sizes for specific student profiles with greater learning needs.” This includes students who need help with reading, writing and arithmetic and those with special educational needs.

The ministry added: “This is a targeted approach that would be more sustainable and cost-effective than a blanket reduction in class size.”


For some teachers, the need to support parents, avoid student grievances, and stoically handle numerous administrative tasks is fueled by the MOE grading system.

The Department employs a relative ranking system in which a teacher’s performance is evaluated both by his own manager and by an evaluation panel composed of direct and indirect managers, who are compared to those of his or her peers.

This is also used by the rest of the civil service and allows them “to recognize the good work that (the teachers) have done,” MOE said.

Teachers told TODAY that in addition to their students’ achievements, other factors such as their relationship with parents, administrative responsibilities and leadership roles influence their grades.

However, there are different views about the rating system.

A secondary school teacher, who asked to be identified as Jamie, said: “There are workplace policies as the assignment of leadership events is part of the duties of those who grade us.

“If your bosses don’t like you, it becomes difficult to get a good grade.”

Other teachers also noted that some CCAs are seen as more prestigious than others, such as those who can gain recognition for the school through competitions.

However, Mr. Ng believes the rating system is necessary.

“We need a way to measure how we’ve contributed to our schools, and if we do away with that system, some teachers might do less than others because there’s no incentive,” he said, adding that the situation is the same. like any other job.”

Mandy would like more transparency in the system.

“So some of us wonder why we’re lagging behind when others are making progress,” she said.

If she had her way, Germaine would do away with the grading system altogether.

The veteran teacher said: “I want to relive my early days of working together as a school, without competing, without being graded, before I retire. We just enjoyed teaching our kids.”

To ensure that teachers are evaluated fairly and consistently across schools, the MOE provides school leaders with guidelines for performance management.

This allows them to “find an appropriate balance of consistency while allowing some flexibility and discretion to cater to the specific circumstances in each school”.

“The MOE regularly updates and engages all school leaders on key HR policies and issues, including performance management policies, best practices and expected standards of performance assessment,” the ministry added.

The MOE also said teachers who feel unfairly judged can raise their concerns to their principals, cluster superintendents or the ministry’s human resources team.


As teachers are drawn in different directions by different demands and expectations, the question arises: What is the role of teachers?

And that’s a question that teachers themselves find it difficult to answer.

Given the amount of time children spend at school every day, teachers play a huge role in their academic, social and emotional development – serving as role models while teaching them academically.

However, as their workload continued to increase, the teachers surveyed said they had to sacrifice their health—both physical and mental—and family time to help their students.

Comparing her role as a teacher when she started 26 years ago, Mabel described the change in job role as “dramatic”.

“In the 1990s, parents didn’t approach us unless it was an urgent matter… It was a respectable job to be a teacher,” she said.

“Now we are expected to do everything without being appreciated

Sandra, the native speaker, hopes she can focus on teaching.

“The emphasis on ICT (Information and Communication Technology) has really opened up new ways for our students to engage with their studies, but this will only be possible if we have time to develop and innovate new curricula, and plenty of it to do so have technological resources that children can access,” she said.


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