TL;DR – Maybe we should just let the teachers TEACH.
It is reported that 5,000 teachers have left teaching over the last five years.
Five thousand resignations over five years. That works out to about 1,000 teachers a year. Given that there are 33,000 teachers in Singapore, that works out to an annual resignation of about 3%. MOE maintains that 3% is considered low. But statistics according to MOM show that the average annual resignation rate in Singapore stands at about 2%.
So the annual resignation rate amongst teachers is higher than the average in Singapore. What could possibly be the reasons for this?
According to MOE, the top three reasons for teachers’ resignations are:
- For childcare
- Other family considerations
- A desire for change of job
While these may be valid reasons, one of the major reasons for teachers leaving seems to be missing from that list. Straits Times spoke to 12 teachers who have resigned. Two-thirds of them mentioned that they left teaching because of the administrative workload.
We asked around ourselves. Other than “administrative workload”, another reason for teachers leaving is because of their principals. In fact, some of the administrative workload that drives teachers away comes from principals. As a netizen commented:
In order to reduce the resignation rate of teachers, we came up with a list of three things that we think principals should stop doing.
Stop forcing teachers to wayang
We get it. School principals, like any one else, want to get recognition for their work, be rewarded with a good bonus, and earn a promotion. But, as Pat Yau alluded to in his comment, many principals promotions are often built upon the bones of burnt out teachers.
On their relentless march to showcase themselves and prove their worth, many principals often force their teachers to embark on large-scale projects. The principals hope that these projects will get the attention of the higher-ups. In other words, principals often force their teachers to wayang.
Whether these large-scale projects have any real benefits for students is beside the point, or sometimes, even questionable. What is often the case is that teachers get tired out organising and working on these projects.
Stop making teachers write so many reports
An extension of the wayang that teachers are made to participate in, are the many reports that they are made to write. How else will the upper-ups know of all the “bing-bong-biang” projects that the principals have done? Surely someone must write those reports and send them off to MOE, right?
And it’s not just reports for the wayang things. But reports for any thing and every thing. It’s part of the whole thing about “accountability” and “professionalisation” of teaching. After all, whatever gets measured gets done, right?
But one teacher we spoke to told us:
“Also don’t know why every year I have to write so many reports. Write already also don’t know if anyone actually reads it…”
Stop saying one thing but doing another
Yes. All principals will say that they believe in holistic education. That education is beyond just grades and making to the next stage. They may claim that results aren’t everything. But… we all know the reality.
We are told by our teachers friends that almost all the principals they work for morph into “gan cheong” spiders when it comes to the national examinations. Woe be to any teachers who can’t produce the results.
Our teacher-friends tell us that if they can’t produce good exam results, no matter the reasons, they will find it difficult to get performance bonuses, let alone promotions. Doesn’t matter whatever else they may have done, however hard they may have worked, or however much blood, sweat and tears they’ve shed for their students.
No results, no talk.
Hope MOE will dig deeper
Let’s hope that MOE doesn’t take things at face value and really believe that teachers are leaving because of the three reasons they stated. Let’s hope that MOE dig deeper to find out why teachers who leave have a “desire for a job change”.
For it is only when you know what’s wrong can you solve the problem at the crux. Like what Denise Phua said in the video, one teacher lost is one too many.
Updated 10th Oct 2016
We updated with another blogpost, read here.