Singaporeans enraged over MOE's decision to charge teachers for parking in schools

And so it has been confirmed. Come 1 August 2018, teachers in Singapore (primary, secondary and junior college sections) shall have to pay for parking on school premises. As laid out in a piece of reporting (Channel NewsAsia - 26 March 2018 :"Teachers to pay for parking in schools from August"), the Auditor-General Office’s (AGO) 2014/2015 Financial Year report highlighted that not imposing parking charges, or charging below market rate for the use of car parks, are tantamount to providing hidden subsidies for vehicle parking. The Education Ministry further emphasized this implementation is in line with the clean wage policy:

“It has become increasingly clear that the current treatment of allowing school staff to park for free constitutes a taxable benefit, as the vast majority of school car parks are located near chargeable car parks and the car parks are intended for the use of staff and authorised visitors, with no access given to the general public. As such, in line with PSD’s clean wage policy, an appropriate season parking charge in schools will be imposed.”

A significant amount of unease among teachers and members of the general public was already bubbling back in early 2016 when the Ministry of Education (MOE) first announced it was going to review whether it should charge teachers to park in schools. Now that the die is cast, this unease has turned into outrage, as many netizens took to social media platforms to denounce the seemingly callous decision undertaken by the government. As we scanned the comments left behind on Facebook pages of mainstream media entities which reported this piece of news, nary a sentiment demonstrated solidarity nor support for MOE's stance. Then again, can "righteous" folks be faulted for feeling so peeved at what appears to be yet another instance of shabbily treating educators who have bled heart and soul to nurture our young? Samples of the overwhelming negativity are provided below for reference.

By Chew JC:

"As a former (relief) teacher, I feel this is a heartless move made by a bureaucrat who just wants to score some points. What is the message we are sending? Teaching is not a job, its a calling. Nobody goes into teaching to become rich in Singapore. While educators aren't paid trashy salaries, they aren't being compensated optimally either. In this light I reckon the financial remuneration provided should come with some privileges. Teachers make lots of sacrifices for their calling. I now work from 9am to 5pm daily; I pretty much drop everything I'm doing when the clock strikes five. Rarely do I need to put in overtime hours. What about teachers? they work ALL THE TIME. They bring homework back from school to mark, because how else could they afford the time to do so? Those having it hardest are the language teachers, imagine the amount of time consumed just to mark an essay full of spelling and grammatical errors, having to correct every single mistake by hand. By the way, you know what makes things even sadder? The Education Minister who actually approved this damn decision to make teachers pay for parking in schools. 🤦‍"

By Tan Jui Shien Ray :

"I find this entirely ridiculous. Having a mother, who has taught for more than 20 years, I can understand and see the demands placed on teachers by their profession. Almost everyday, she carries home with her several piles of student's work to mark, necessitating the use of a car. She tirelessly marks the assignments, till the wee hours of the night, and often also spends her weekends marking. Her weekday afternoons are spent attending to her students, and CCA. She even spent virtually half the March Holidays keeping in touch with her students, leaving very little personal time to rest. Providing free parking to these educators who work tirelessly, at school and at home to bring out the best in their students both academically and holistically should be the bare minimum, if anything, to support them, and as a gesture to thank them for their hard work and dedication for their students and to the country."

By Nurul Nabila Bte Azman :

"From an educator’s point of view, here’s my thought process when I learnt about this piece of news.

Implementation of season parking > nah, no more driving because parking in school is just too expensive, which therefore means:

Waking up an hour earlier - take public transport - lug marking bag - change 2 buses to get to school - end CCA/meetings/ lesson planning/ clear marking at 6.30pm - take public transport home - change 2 buses - peak hour - reach home at 7.30pm - cook for family - spend time with family - do housework - continue marking assignments - sleep - wake up extra early to be in school by 7.15am

Lather, rinse, repeat - 5 times a week for 4 terms...

And we wonder why so many educators are quitting..."

By Angie Lim :

"I’m sorry, but it’s only logical that parking in school be ‘recorded’ as a staff benefit for teachers. Why do teachers still have to pay parking fees in the school they teach? Does MacDonald charge its staff for burgers and fries consumed as meals during working hours? Do hospitals make their nurses or doctors fully liable for medication and surgery costs etc? Do banks charge their staff service fees? Does the president need pay rental to stay at the Istana?"

By Benjamin Yeo :

"Gosh! What a stupid rule! AGO are you out of your mind? I have seen teachers or a VP standing at the gate @0630 in the morning to make sure kids (AGO members, yes your kids are among them as well) arrive safely each day and they won’t return home until 5-6pm, perhaps much later. Yet you have the gall to deprive them of this small privilege. Dear PM Lee or any minister, if you come across this, PLEASE for the love of our school teachers and the public education sector, look into this unreasonable implementation."

By Chi Wai Lee:

"Remember a teacher who shielded his students from getting hit by rocks during the Sabah earthquake? Well fyi he lost his life in the process. Most teachers are willing to go the extra mile for their students. How petty can you get to treat them like this?"

By Liu INan:

"Teachers are the only civil servants who voluntarily stay back after official hours to provide extra tuition classes and organize CCAs for their students. You don't encounter folks in other parts of the civil service clocking overtime of their own volition. Surely we can cut the teachers some slack given their devotion to grooming our younger generation?"

By Emmanuel Noel:

"This will make a good Source Based Question for Social Studies. It is a matter of crafting the question to elicit the "right" response to get L6/7 for question 1(d)."

By Danny Chin :

"Sigh..... teachers are really having a tough life. Why can’t we spare a thought for their unspoken sacrifices in educating our next generations and dealing with horrible parents....unless you are telling me those parking charges are going into benefiting the under privileged in the school. At at the end of the day we are looking at mere spaces in school and they have no commercial value whatsoever."

By Tim Timothy :

"Students, in future it would be far more practical to present gifts of parking coupons/cash cards during Teachers' Day instead of flowers or handwritten cards."

By Elizabeth Tan :

"Why should teachers pay for parking in their own schools? Many of them drive because school hours start so early in the mornings and end so late in the evenings; many are also forced to drive because they have to lug home tons of books and scripts to mark. If everything has to be counted so clearly in dollars and cents, MOE should start reimbursing teachers for every trivial expense paid out of their pockets, eg the red pens they use, transport charges incurred for attending out of school meetings etc. I don't see how this parking fee implementation contributes towards making teaching an attractive and meaningful occupation."

By Chun Jun Lim:

"When I was in Secondary School so many years ago, I remembered how my subject teachers would stay until 10pm for any student who wanted to come back to school after hours for some extra help in preparing for the 'O' levels.

Can you imagine that? From 7:30 am (pretty sure they came even earlier) till 10pm in a typical workday!

I'm sure this level of commitment towards me and my peers would extend to the current generation and future generations as well. And this is not taking into account their marking of test papers during school holidays, preparing of lesson curriculum for the next semester, taking charge of CCAs etc....

To make them pay for parking is ridiculous, is unappreciative, and seems to me, unjustifiable to benchmark against practices in the private sector.

Sorry MOE, it is my opinion that to defend this decision by saying that this is a "taxable benefit", "must adhere to clean wage policy", it makes me feel that MOE is inflexible, hiding behind policy jargon to justify its actions.

Every student is different, as such a uniquely flexible approach in handling each individual is a must, hence the notion that teaching is a profession of a higher calling as it requires great patience, planning and thought. Imagine teachers consequently becoming inflexible because their employers had fired off the first shot by acting in an inflexible manner themselves. In turn, inflexibility implicates the students and their schooling schedules, in turn the learning experience for our future generations will be truncated!

One may remark: "Oh it is just parking, don't make such a big hoo ha." But I reckon: "What if such treatment continues? And more punitive measures are introduced in the coming future?"

I feel very strongly about this as it affects our future generations, and in the grand scheme of things, Singapore's future."

Carefully harvested by the Czar (Site Founder)

Dated 28 March 2018


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