The Star Opinion: Teachers’ Complaints Valid and Reasonable

From The Star Opinion 15 April 2010:

Wednesday April 14, 2010

Teachers’ complaints valid and reasonable

AS I have many teachers in my extended family, I feel the need to respond to the letter “Be sure you love teaching before joining the profession” (The Star, April 13) in order to clarify some misconceptions about the teaching profession.

Firstly, it is true that most teachers have lifelong job security. However, if you think teaching is so laidback and easy, you should try handling one of the more raucous classes for a week and see if it changes your perception.

The average fresh entry into the profession has to go through 30 to 40 years before reaching retirement. Many of these years will be spent struggling with students who have absolutely no desire to learn.

Secondly, I disagree with the view that most school teachers have plenty of free time. Don’t generalise from a few, highly visible examples who seem to be touting the latest health supplement at every opportunity.

It is true that most school sessions last only half the day. However, dedicated teachers have most of their non-teaching hours taken up by meetings, co-curricular duties, lesson preparations, endless marking of books and test papers, and various committee responsibilities. Wouldn’t any non-teacher protest if their non-office hours were intruded upon by such obligations?

If some teachers attend to family matters or hold tuition classes in between, it is through the sacrifice of their own personal time and energy. Again, would any of us in the private sector accept our bosses telling us how to spend our free time once we have clocked out?

Thirdly, the number of holidays that teachers get is often the envy of other sectors. However, this is somewhat offset when meetings are held in the middle of school holidays.

Teachers also have fewer days of personal leave to use for important events like weddings, and such leave is subject to potentially strict approval.

Finally and most importantly, many teachers do indeed love teaching. It is the whole reason they joined the profession in the first place. Again, don’t let a few opportunists who brag about their light schedules and plentiful holidays tarnish the entire profession.

Many teachers today feel that they are overburdened with paperwork and other compulsory tasks that interfere with their lesson preparations and actual teaching.

These teachers signed onto the job aspiring to teach and guide eager young students, but they didn’t realise that inputting of data, compiling of statistics and writing of progress reports would form the bulk of their work. And this is not even including the after-hours obligations I mentioned earlier.

So give teachers a break, including a little respect and sympathy. If some teachers ask that their working conditions be made a little less strenuous and distracting, it is a valid and reasonable request.



Here’s the letter that I replied to (and addressed directly in the original draft, which The Star toned down – probably to avoid a snail-mail flame war lol):

Tuesday April 13, 2010

Be sure you love teaching before joining the profession

I AM quite disappointed with the views expressed in the letter “Teachers should be treated better,” (The Star, April 12).

There is too much grumbling and complaints between the lines.

Government school teachers should be thankful to their boss, the Government.

There is only recruitment and retirement in the teaching profession.

Have you ever heard of any retrenchment of teachers?

Teaching in government schools is such a laid-back career as it is not affected by the economic downturn or other circumstances.

Moreover, most school teachers still have enough energy and free time to do part-time job such as tuition, direct sales and insurance, or help their spouse to run a business.

On top of that, they have salary increments every year and are paid allowances regardless of how bad the economy is.

They enjoy about 78 days of holidays annually, excluding public holidays.

So, what else do teachers want? Teaching is a noble profession and people should be sure that they love teaching before joining the profession.


As you can see, how could I not respond to such an assault on teachers by this ANGRY PARENT?

And the letter that the above was written ANGRILY in response to:

Monday April 12, 2010

Teachers should be treated better

BESIDES the heavy workload of teachers, I would like to highlight their poor working condition and environment. Almost all other government departments have better working conditions.

Hospitals, police stations and other government departments are now fully air-conditioned but teachers have to slog in hot and humid classrooms where the fans and lights are sometimes spoilt.

The male teachers would love to wear ties in the classroom but the humidity does not work in their favour.

It can be argued that some schools have air-conditioned staff rooms but how many are that privileged?

Even if the staff rooms are air-conditioned, there is an unwritten rule that we can only switch on the air-conditioners after 10am.

In some schools, the fans are not allowed to be switched on in the morning. Students are only allowed to do so after recess to cut cost.

Students will not be comfortable learning under such conditions.

Teachers are professionals and soon even primary schools will be flooded with graduates and they deserve better treatment than this.

Canteens in schools, compared to other government departments, are also far from satisfactory.

The space or room allocated for teachers is congested and stuffy and don’t come with air-conditioning.

Thanks to privatisation of the general workers, our toilets are much cleaner but a great deal has to be done to upgrade the facilities.

Having only one or two small cubicles as toilets for teachers is embarrassing.

Correct me if I am wrong, but all other government staff except teachers are provided with stationery.

Teachers use more pens than anybody else but we are not provided with these.

Nowadays, we are compelled to use white board markers which do not come cheap.

There are schools which provide each teacher with two markers at the beginning of the year.

We are told to buy our own refills or get new markers. Each marker hardly lasts a week.

I am not being petty about buying marker pens and other stationery but why do other government staff enjoy such facilities while teachers have to shoulder such expenses?

I feel teachers are the most under-rated civilian staff and they deserve better treatment and opportunities for promotion.

Most of us get promoted not on merit but on the time-based system.

It cannot be denied that the Education Ministry has been creating more opportunities for promotion but what percentage of the profession does that represent?

To add to the woes of senior teachers at secondary schools, young teachers have been employed to teach Form Six classes just because they get to jump to a higher scale.

Senior teachers who have been teaching Form Six classes all these while are relegated to lower forms.

Some argue that young teachers should be given a chance to get quick promotions. But what about the seniors?

Don’t they deserve some recognition too?

While other departments have their own fleet of vehicles for official purposes, teachers have to fend for themselves. Not all teachers can afford luxury cars and pupils feel shy to make a trip in a teacher’s car as it is not flashy enough.



Quite an innocent letter really, to have received such an ANGRY response.

See also related school-themed letters:

And response to my letter here.

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