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6:37pm 14/02/2022
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Put an end to perennial teacher shortage problem at SJKCs

Sin Chew Daily

The ruling that parent-teacher associations at Chinese primary schools in the country are not allowed to hire their own temporary teachers has drawn tremendous concern in the local Chinese community.

Some of the schools in KL have already received official notices from the district education department that they are only allowed to hire temporary teachers via the education ministry’s MySTEP system, not the PTAs.

However, there was a twist in the event on Sunday (Feb 13) with the deputy education minister Mah Hang Soon saying he had instructed state education departments to properly handle the issue of schools hiring temporary teachers, and to approve the applications by the schools within one week, so that they could have their vacancies filled as soon as possible and the schools could run smoothly.

It appears now that this issue has come to a rest for the time being. That said, the root cause of the issue, namely the perennial teacher shortage problem, must be resolved tactfully. In the near term, the application procedures, including the MySTEP system, needs to be optimized and streamlined. And for the long-term, the education ministry must have a comprehensive set of solutions to provide the schools with enough qualified teachers to meet their needs.

Teacher shortage is by no means a novel issue to the country’s SJKCs. Instead, it is a stubborn malady that has persisted for decades and remains very much unresolved to this day.

In the face of such dilemma, PTAs and school boards will normally hire their own temporary teachers in order to fill the vacancies speedily lest the students’ learning progress is compromised. Such a “self-rescue” solution which has been in existence for so long appears to be way more flexible and effective.

Sure enough the education department has its reasons to require that the schools hire temporary teachers only through its MySTEP system to ensure the quality of the teachers  Anyway, the teachers’ salaries are disbursed directly by the education ministry.

We are quite sure no one would like to take the trouble and dig into their own pockets to hire temporary teachers if the schools can easily and speedily get the temporary teachers they need through the MySTEP system in order to address their acute teacher shortage problem. The thing is, the MySTEP application procedures have been excessively complicated, cumbersome and time-consuming.

From what we know, there have been schools that have failed to get their MySTEP applications approved after a long time such that they have to resort to getting other teachers to relieve. This has not only increased the workload of the teachers but will also affect the students’ learning.

In short, if the authorities would improve the system, streamline the application procedures and timely provide the teachers urgently required by the schools, we believe the school authorities and PTAs will be more than happy to cooperate.

As mentioned earlier, what the government needs to do now is to simplify the procedures and shorten the waiting time, but above all, it must first ensure adequate supply of teachers to meet the needs of all the schools.

The SJKC teacher shortage problem has been around for so many years, and the authorities have over and again reassured that they would seriously look into this issue. Unfortunately, this problem remains very much unresolved after all these years, making many wonder how long more they have to wait before this teacher shortage problem can be put to a stop once and for all.

The education ministry launched a recruitment exercise last year and employed over 10,000 teachers with tertiary qualifications (DG41) to address this problem. From what we have learned, the program is now in its second phase of teacher deployment. It is therefore hoped that the teacher shortage problem can be resolved once and for all this time so that the schools can operate smoothly and the students’ learning will not be affected.

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