We share Dr Shannon Ang’s concern about pandemic stress affecting the mental health of teachers and public servants (Telling people to ‘be resilient’ isn’t enough when it comes to mental health, Sept 24), and want to assure him that no student, teacher or public officer is left alone to take care of his mental well-being.
In addition to mental health literacy efforts, there are support structures in schools and workplaces, ranging from preventive efforts to early identification and intervention programmes.
Teachers are the lifeblood of our education system. We recognise that in order for teachers to care for their students, they must first be able to care for themselves.
That is why the Ministry of Education (MOE) has created an ecosystem of support for teachers. Before they enter service, student teachers at the National Institute of Education attend programmes that lay the foundation for self-care and mental health.
In-service teachers continue to be supported by their schools – for example, there are guidelines for managing teachers’ workload, and to ensure teachers have protected time during school vacations to rest and recharge.
Teachers also work alongside school counsellors, allied educators and student development teams to support students’ needs.
We appreciate Dr Ang’s suggestion that reducing class sizes can ease teachers’ workloads. However, to do this for all classes would mean either hiring more teachers, or having our current pool of teachers take on significantly more classes. This is not a sustainable approach, given manpower constraints.
Instead, MOE deploys additional teachers to schools which have more students with greater learning needs, enabling smaller classes to support them.
MOE will also explore implementing smaller class sizes where appropriate, especially in subjects where students may benefit from more interaction with their teachers.
We are also grateful for Dr Ang’s concern for public servants. During these exceptional times, the Public Service has stepped up efforts to support the mental well-being of public officers. These include prioritising workload, establishing clear expectations on officers’ availability and work hours, and encouraging supervisors to check in with their officers regularly.
We have also put in place various support systems including counselling hotlines, wellness ambassadors and resources to support mental well-being.
Chua-Lim Yen Ching
Deputy Director-General of Education (Professional Development)
Ministry of Education
Lee May Gee
Director, Public Sector Transformation
Public Service Division