MOE urges school leaders to help ease mental burden on teachers
The Ministry of Education (MOE) has called on school principals to ease the mental burden on teachers by establishing clear expectations of teachers' availability and work hours.
Responding to questions from MPs in Parliament yesterday, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said school leaders have, for instance, been providing guidance on avoiding parent-staff communication after school operating hours except for urgent matters, such as those involving the safety and well-being of students.
This can minimise the blurring of lines between work and personal time, he added.
Mr Patrick Tay (Pioneer) had asked about the annual number of cases of mental distress or psychiatric issues reported by teaching staff, and what the ministry was doing to alleviate the stress they encountered.
The questions come amid reports of worsening mental health among teachers since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic from new pressures, including heavier workloads brought about by conducting home-based learning and contact tracing.
Mr Chan acknowledged that teaching staff have shouldered a heavy responsibility to ensure students can continue learning safely. To address concerns over workload, the ministry has given schools greater flexibility to pace the implementation of selected initiatives, including deferring their roll-out.
Secondary schools and junior colleges, for example, have been given the option to defer blended learning - a mix of face-to-face teaching and home-based learning - to 2022 instead of Term 3 this year as originally planned, he said.
Mr Chan noted that practices may vary on the ground, and principals should also reprioritise school programmes and encourage supervisors to check in with their officers regularly.
He added that the workload imposed by contact tracing and Covid-19 management has now been reduced with the Ministry of Health's "significantly simplified" protocols.
In addition, institutes of higher learning have implemented various measures tailored for them, such as not requiring staff to reply to work e-mails after office hours unless there are exigencies.
Mr Chan noted that about 50 staff from schools had sought support from MOE's in-house counsellors annually before Covid-19, and this has increased to about 80 since last year.