Streamline teachers' job scope

Streamline teachers' job scope
While teachers are capable of juggling multiple tasks, there needs to be greater focus on developing pedagogical practices, says Mr He Jia Wen.

SINGAPORE - Besides discussing the quantity and quality of teachers' working hours, it is important to examine whether their professional role is reflected in the actual work they do ("Singapore teachers among the most hard-working: Study", last Thursday; and " '48 hours? It's more than that' ", last Friday).

While teachers here are capable of juggling multiple tasks, there needs to be greater focus on developing pedagogical practices.

If teachers are considered professionals in education, their job scope needs to focus more on those exact skills.

In Finland, teachers at all levels are versed in research practices and constantly keep up to date with educational journals.

In Singapore, teachers multitask as educators, event managers, financial controllers and administrators, among other roles.

Teachers join the profession because they aspire to be professional educators, not administrative managers.

While certain types of administrative duties, such as co-curricular activity supervision, have educational value, others do not.

Liaising with vendors, preparing financial accounts, catering food, planning school events and arranging transport - these are just some of the non-educational administrative tasks that occupy most teachers' time.

All five Programme for International Student Assessment cycles have identified teacher quality as key to successful education systems ("Leaning on the Pisa tower of success"; Sunday).

Indeed, the Singapore model for selecting and preparing teachers is internationally renowned.

The recent Teaching and Learning International Survey results also show schools have mentoring practices in place.

However, we have younger and less experienced teachers, and bigger class sizes.

These findings have implications for our teachers, who have to constantly develop in their practice.

They already face larger class sizes and, with that, more marking and student-related administrative duties.

They cannot focus professionally if they are distracted by too many non-teaching tasks.

It is heartening to know that the Ministry of Education is trying to ease teachers' workload by hiring more teachers and support staff.

What needs to happen concurrently is for the ministry and schools to push for a more fundamental change: a more streamlined, more professional job scope for teachers.

-He Jia Wen

This article was first published on JULY 2, 2014.
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