NUTP: Hiring teaching assistants important, but more crucial is to ensure teachers don’t lose interest

The hiring of teaching assistants to manage clerical work, such as data entry and record-keeping to reduce the workload of teachers, can only happen if there is commitment from all levels of government.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general, Fouzi Singon, said while the Education Ministry is mulling the idea, it also hinges on whether or not the Public Service Department is willing to hire new government servants, be it on a permanent, or contract basis.

“The proposal is not new and has been proposed by NUTP before. While there is a need to reduce the burden of teachers in our schools, we also understand that the process is not easy,” said Fouzi.

“As such, we need to continue to find ways to reduce the workload of teachers to ensure they can focus on teaching, and not take on additional tasks and responsibilities which are not germane.”

He was responding to Deputy Education Minister Lim Hui Ying’s statement in the Dewan Negara today, that the ministry was studying the idea of hiring teaching assistants to reduce teachers’ workload.

Lim was replying to a question by Senator Azha Abu Hanafiah on measures to resolve teachers’ excessive workload, which had resulted in a spike in the number of teachers opting for early retirement.

Fouzi said the burden of the additional tasks put on teachers was just one of the many reasons why teachers opted for early retirement.

“There are those, especially those above 50, who quit because they find it tough to embrace technological advancements. There are also those who are burdened by the high, or sometimes unrealistic expectations placed on them.

“Teachers just want to teach. They do not mind investing their time, energy, and even money, to teach. Multitasking too, is not an issue, but it’s a problem when they start to lose interest in teaching.”

Fouzi said teachers lose interest in teaching when unrealistic expectations are put on them by the school’s management.

“I recently visited a school where teachers were told by the management that they could only leave after 2.30pm, despite school finishing at 1pm. It’s not a rule, nor is it a law, but these ‘stipulations’ were made up by ‘little Napoleons’ in these schools.

“Then, there is the problematic Identity Management System (idMe). Clearly, there is a problem with the server, yet we see teachers still trying to key in data into the system at 2am and 3am. How long are teachers expected to go on like this?”

Fouzi said ensuring teachers did not retire early or lose interest in teaching requires all parties to work together – from teachers, school administrators, the education ministry, and its officials.

He also commended Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek for wanting to focus on seven main areas, including looking into the welfare of teachers, and improving communication between the ministry and schools, to ensure transparency and efficiency.

Fouzi said NUTP will continue to conduct dialogue with the ministry to ensure that the plight and concerns of teachers were looked into.

“NUTP is not merely harping on issues. Go down to the ground and you will hear teachers venting out their frustrations to us,” said Fouzi, whose union represents some 230,000 teachers in Peninsular Malaysia.

“We are here to ensure that the welfare of teachers are looked into. We also want to make sure that teachers want to teach,” he said.