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School CP - May 2001

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The Straits Times, Singapore, 18 May 2001

Plight of teachers, parenting get an airing

By Kao Chen


WHAT ails the Singapore teacher? Is it the reward system, heavy workload or lack of classroom discipline?

These were the questions that 15 letter-writers grappled with in the Lianhe Zaobao [Chinese-language Singapore newspaper -- C.F.], making teachers' plight the top issue last month.

They welcomed the increase in teacher salaries announced recently, but expressed doubts if it could halt the exodus of teachers from the service.


Travails of teachers

MADAM Li May, a teacher, was pleased with the new pay package but wondered if most of the salary increases would go to the senior staff, with some ordinary teachers getting only a 2- to 4-per-cent raise.

Mr Qiu Daxin, also a teacher, agreed that salary increases alone would not alleviate the shortage of teachers. What was critical, he said, were issues such as the heavy workload and lack of dignity and recognition for the job.

Madam Cai Longmai, whose daughter-in-law is a teacher, noted the long hours -- 11 hours a day -- as an important factor that led some teachers to opt for other careers.

Private tutor Lu Yubing said he did not want a regular teaching job because 'the average class size of 40 is too big to manage and generates too much work for the pay. And parents are too quick to complain'.

Commenting on the resignation of teachers, Ms Chen Xinming said that they gave up not because they had lost their passion, but because students and parents gave them little respect and support.

'And it is not only the students with poor grades who are causing discipline problems,' she pointed out.

'The good students are also arrogant, seeing themselves as customers whom teachers should pander to.'

Retired teacher Wang Hueiqing related how a teacher was humiliated, when a student who was caught for cheating was sent to the principal but was let off without any disciplinary action.

Mr Liu Xiaoyang, a student, blamed the 'overblown egos' of some parents for aggravating the problem.

He related a case where the parents of a student who was disciplined came to school to complain. The teacher was later made to apologise to the student.

'Can you blame the teacher for not wanting to enforce discipline again?' he asked.

On the issue of whether corporal punishment should be banned in schools, Mr Xue Yong, who is a doctoral student in history at Yale University, said: 'Yes.'

Resorting to it reflects the adults' inability to reason with the child and win his trust, he argued.

'As societies become more civilised, it is not surprising that the authority of teachers will erode,' he observed.

Mr Xu Rongding, a grandfather, expressed strong objections to corporal punishment at school, saying it would 'hurt the students' love and respect for their teachers and lead to confrontation and hatred'.

But Mr Hu Dinghai, who has two children aged 15 and 19, felt that 'children need both cuddling and caning'.

Listen to your children

WHILE schools impart knowledge, parents should set a good example by caring for and showing respect to elders, said Madam Lin Baoming, a mother.

On problems in parent-teacher relationships, Mr Liang Qiliu pointed his finger at the impatience and extreme practical-mindedness of some parents.

Some parents are demanding that nursery teachers teach three-year-olds alphabets and other 'useful' skills, instead of 'wasting time' on colouring pictures and playing games, he said.

Another letter-writer, Mr Cui Xianyao, blamed society at large for the kiasu attitude of some parents.

Madam Jiang Lin, a teacher, suggested that parents take time to really listen to and understand their children. 'Just leave your watch and cell phone at home for one weekend, and take them to the seaside for some carefree family time!' she said.


Copyright © 2000 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

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