KUALA LUMPUR: Gone are the days when a schoolteacher only had to do what he or she was trained to do – teach.
These days, they have to fulfil a pile of other responsibilities, including carrying out administrative and even “parenting” duties and, more shockingly, forking out their own money for students’ extracurricular activities.
Teaching unions and groups have regularly expressed their grievances over the increasing workloads of educators and the challenges confronting them. And, as any teacher will readily agree, their profession is certainly not the bed of roses that some people make it out to be.
In fact, many teachers are feeling overwhelmed by the extra burden they are shouldering and are, understandably, under a lot of stress as well. Even Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi raised this issue recently when he highlighted the need for teachers to focus more on their academic duties and enhancing spiritual values.
Speaking at the launch of a football carnival in Bagan Datoh, Perak, on March 12, he said teachers should not be burdened with administrative work but should, instead, be empowered to produce students who were not only educated, but also had high moral values.
As Helmi Fazlin Baharim, 40, attests, being bogged down with administrative work often compromised the quality of her teaching because she could not devote more time to preparing her lessons.
The secondary schoolteacher from Ipoh, Perak, said: “Many people still think that a teacher’s work is easy but only we teachers know what we’re going through. Each time there’s a change in the education policy or system, we’ve extra (administrative) work to do.
“For instance, we’ve to repeatedly key-in our students’ data each time a new online system is introduced – the information is the same but we’ve to do the same job of entering the data. Similarly, when a new education system is introduced, like the school-based assessment for primary schools (introduced in 2011), we have so many things to look into and it does seem as if all our efforts in the past have gone to waste.”
Raudhah Sharan, 30, who teaches economics in a secondary school in Klang, Selangor, concurred with Helmi Fazlin, saying that teachers used up whatever free time they had in school doing the “same old clerical work” and often did not have time to prepare their lessons.
“Since we don’t have enough time in school, we have to prepare our lessons at home, which deprives us of spending quality time with our families. I’m not complaining but then, we teachers are also humans and we also need time for ourselves,” she told Bernama.
In expressing their grievances, teachers were not questioning their duties, but merely hoping the authorities could find a solution to their woes, she stressed.
National Union of Teaching Profession President Hashim Adnan said the issue of teachers being burdened with administrative chores was nothing new and although various studies and discussions had been carried out in the past, no solutions had materialised.
“What is most regrettable is that there seems to be no way out. When no action is being taken to relieve the burden of teachers, they feel demoralised and can’t carry out their actual duty in a dedicated manner.
“Raising their salary scales doesn’t mean that they have to do administrative work as well because all that extra workload is too much for them to bear, both physically and mentally,” he said.
Hashim also hit out at the attitudes of certain parents who “surrender” their parenting duties to the teachers and also criticise teachers for failing to educate their children properly.
“Then there are some parents who prohibit teachers from laying a finger on their children… in fact, they are up in arms the minute their children come home complaining that they have been punished by their teacher,” he said.
Urging parents to be more understanding, Hashim said it was the duty of teachers to educate and guide children into becoming exemplary citizens, capable of leading a successful life in a progressive and competitive society.
Universiti Malaya lecturer Asso Prof Muhammad Faizal A Ghani said heavy workloads could demotivate teachers and prevent them from providing their best service.
He said since heavy workloads could impair their commitment to teach, teachers should learn to handle their varied duties capably, as well as be able to bear the stress.
“Studies have shown that this issue (of heavy workloads) can affect a teacher’s competency level, as well as his or her family life.
“For example, many of the professional training programmes that they have to attend are conducted during the weekends, which give them little time to spend with their families,” said Muhammad Faizal, who is attached to the university’s Faculty of Education.
He said in striving to enhance the quality of education, it was important to encourage collaboration among government agencies, schools, teachers and parents to ensure the smooth implementation of the teaching and learning process in schools.
“It will also help improve professionalism among teachers,” he said.
Pointing out that it was the duty of the school head or principal to ensure that his or her school had a conducive working atmosphere, Muhammad Faizal said it was also imperative that they understood the problems faced by their teachers.
“Also, if there’s anything parents can do to improve a school’s education standards, they should come forward to help.
“For example, if they have expertise in certain fields, then they can give the school some moral support in terms of their expertise and energy. If such cooperation is more prevalent, it can enhance the overall quality of our nation’s education system,” he said.
Provide more teaching assistants
On the Ministry of Education’s initiative called “Repositioning of Teachers’ Core Duties” that is aimed at easing a teacher’s work burden, Muhammad Faizal said the programme should be extended to all the states to foster quality education, which was an important prerequisite in order to become a developed nation.
Last October, Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid had said that the initiative was being implemented in the form of pilot projects in Malacca and Kedah, whereby teaching assistants and computer technicians would be placed in schools to lessen the administrative and technical workloads of teachers.
Muhammad Faizal said advanced countries like the United Kingdom and United States always prioritised the welfare of their teachers, knowing fully well that education was the key contributor to the development of human capital.
“In those countries, teachers are only required to teach… administrative duties like recording attendance, collecting school fees and taking down the minutes of meetings, are carried out by teaching assistants,” he said.