Working conditions for teachers in Singapore have improved altogether, with teachers spending fewer hours each week; than they used to spend five years back. Spending less time on marking and other administrative work have improved their performance, allowing them more time to teach,  per findings of latest survey.

According to the Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis), released on Wednesday, teachers in Singapore still spent longer hours in classrooms- 46 per week –than their out of country counterparts who work for an average 39 hours per week.  Moreover, teachers spent a major portion of their time on teaching, almost 18 hours per week, however, the percentage was still less than the OECD average of 21 hours.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study, which polled 260,000 teachers globally, found that Singapore teachers worked two hours less each week than the figures that were found in the previous Talis study in 2013. Singapore teachers were ranked seventh most hardworking in the world, falling from third in 2013. Japan clinched the number one spot with teachers working  for the longest hours per week, followed by Kazakhstan, Alberta, Canada and England. 

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Results highlighting teacher workload and beliefs

The findings reported a drop in the amount of time expended on administrative chores, from 5.3 hours in 2013 to 3.8 hours the previous year. Moreover, the time on marking also reduced to 7.5 hours. However, the OECD averages for administrative and marking were 2.7 hours and 4.2 hours respectively.

The survey also found that Singapore had a  higher percentage of teachers working in schools where practices and policies were drafted on the bases of cultural diversity.  Singapore teachers spent 7.2 hours in lesson preparation, lesser than 8.4 hours in 2013. The findings also indicated that more Singapore teachers were using innovative practices in classrooms to teach and access student performances. Moreover,  45 percent of Singapore teachers asked their students to formulate groups and come up with answers, while 43 percent allowed students to incorporate information and communications technology for class projects.

The five-yearly survey by talis access teachers across the globe and is conducted by the OECD to assist countries to review and improve their teaching standards. It provides a detailed insight into teacher education, professional development, teacher workload, teaching practices and instructional beliefs. A total of 48 countries and their education systems were accessed this year, with Singapore appearing for second consecutive time in the survey.

The survey polled 3,300 teachers and 167 principals in Singapore from all 157 secondary schools and a random selection of 12 private schools. The participating schools were given an online questionnaire from September to October 2017.

Education Director-General Wong Siew Hoong said a reduction of two hours in teachers’ workload can be attributed to less administrative work in schools. “This is indeed gratifying to know, because the ministry has put in quite a number of initiatives to try and reduce teachers’ administrative workload, for example, in terms of attendance marking, in terms of consent forms that are necessary, when they take students on learning journeys.” 

In Singapore, as well as other countries including Finland and Japan, seven in ten teachers spent more time on the fundamentals or basics of teaching such as clear presentation, applying everyday life examples and encouraging students to abide by classroom rules. The talis report also stated teaching was the first career choice for seven in 10 people in Singapore, nearly all of them citing the ability to influence the development of children and youngsters, along with contributing to the betterment of society as reasons. 

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