Teachers Who Moonlight

By Anonymous Old Lady

As someone who had been on both sides of teaching and tuition before retirement, I read with amusement about MOE's review of teachers giving tuition.

Aren't you aware that the vast majority of teachers moonlight?

A minority of teachers moonlight as tuition teachers. But the majority moonlight as classroom teachers, while spending most of their time on school enrichment activities, organizing events, CCA activities and other non-teaching duties that would strengthen their portfolios during the annual work review.

Teachers who spend the most of their working hours on direct teaching matters are usually the condemned teachers. Go ask any current school teacher if you think I am lying.

Let's not kid ourselves and say that teachers should do more than just classroom teaching because teaching is more than just about books. It has always been about the money. If it wasn't for the need to impress the HODs and principal in order to secure a good performance bonus and faster promotion, most teachers wouldn't be wasting their time on 3/4 of the school's time-consuming enrichment activities and student development programs.

Talk to any current school teacher privately, and you will find that your child needs tuition because the class size of 40 students is too big, and that schools deliberately load teachers with lots of non-teaching duties so as to strongly discourage them from spending too much time on teaching matters. A teacher who spends two hours to coach weak students is deemed not doing as much or of equal value work than a teacher who spends the same two hours on a rehearsal for a school event or on developing students to be leaders. Wayang pays more than helping weak students.

Many teachers had brought up these issues to MOE, but MOE gives the standard answer that classroom size is not an issue, the issue is more with the quality of teachers. With regards to overloading teachers, MOE says that teachers should do more than teach. To MOE, there is no problem at all from their end. It's mainly the parents fault for being kiasu or incompetent at parenting.

A Member-of-Parliament was worried that teachers who ask students to turn to tuition could be doing so because of conflict of interest. You are so right! The conflict of interest is that it conflicts with the teacher's non-teaching portfolio, which is seen as much more valuable than teaching.

Before retirement, I had taught in three different schools in the west. In all three schools, the teachers are not able to complete the syllabus on time. Remedial lessons are often not free tuition to help weak students. They are usually used to rush and complete the syllabus. Almost all classroom teachers cannot complete the syllabus in sufficient depth and quality without relying on numerous after-school "remedial" classes and conducting lessons during the term holidays. The teachers all cannot complete the syllabus relying only on regular school lessons, but yet still have set aside most of their time for non-teaching duties. And the problem is made worse when teachers are torn between their teaching duties and their non-teaching duties, which actually affects their promotion and performance bonuses more than teaching students. This is the real conflict of interest.

It is strange that you call them as "teachers". MOE officially calls them "General Education Officers", which means they are expected to do many different duties, of which classroom teaching is only one small part. For most kids, they don't need tuition when pigs fly.

If teachers who moonlight as tutors are deemed unprofessional, than how about school teachers who moonlight as classroom teachers and neglect their teaching to focus on scoring points to impress their bosses so as to hasten their own promotions?

Don't lie and say there is more to teaching than classroom teaching. It's always been about the money. Teachers in school neglect their teaching for their CCAs and other duties because they are paid better for doing so. I had not known of any teacher who got promoted for spending quality time coaching weak students. On the other hand, I knew of many teachers who neglected teaching for their student development programs and enjoyed faster career advancement.Their students who suffered during the lessons were expected to turn to tuition for help, and this has been the case for many years. How else do you think these "successful" teachers have been juggling all their numerous duties?

A significant number of ex-colleagues I know would gladly trade career advancement for being able to spend more time helping their weaker students. But the school steps in and stops this nonsense by giving teachers more non-teaching duties.Some teachers only learn their lesson after they repeatedly get poor annual work reviews for spending the bulk of their time on teaching and remedial. They look bad compared to colleagues who spend juggle between teaching, CCA, enrichment programs and a variety of other duties. Some don't mind anymore, but many still feel the pain of lesser performance bonuses and have to make difficult choices.

The problem is not with teachers moonlighting as tutors. The main problem from the start has been with teachers who moonlight as classroom teachers in school, either by choice or by the school's assigned workload.

This was reproduced with permission from editors of The Real Singapore.


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