Teachers bear admin workload

National 4 minutes, 42 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

SHOULD teachers in Brunei focus on delivering quality education alone or are they required to be well-rounded individuals who are capable of doing administrative tasks?

Over the past few years, teachers in government schools have been juggling administrative work aside from teaching, marking, and preparing classroom and learning resources.

It is not uncommon to hear teachers lamenting that the administrative duties are a burden on them and affect their primary role in educating and imparting knowledge to their students.

A secondary school teacher, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal from the government, said form teachers have additional duties as they have to look after a specific class of students and help them deal with any problems.

The English language teacher said form teachers will also need to deal with parents through meetings, disseminate school information, collect funds for the school, contribute to the school magazine as well as run co-curricular activities (CCA).

On top of form teacher duties, he said teachers are also required to handle subject department tasks that involve creating resources for students and sharing it among colleagues, being part of school event committees during national celebration or school events such as sports day, where they are required to participate, organise and sometimes host.

“The admin duties take up time, which can be spent on planning class lessons, teaching responsibilities, marking papers or having available time to work on CCA such as training students for competitions,” he added.

In a 2014 interview, Chief Inspector of the United Kingdom’s Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI Consultancy) Christine Ryan had said Bruneian teachers spend too much time on tasks that are not related to their teaching.

She had said extra responsibilities including financial administration could adversely affect the overall quality of education delivered to students as they take up 25-30 per cent of a teacher’s working hours.

“Some of the issues (extra responsibilities) described to me were what I expected, but there were a few concerns that were unusual, and would not be considered normal practice in any other countries that we (ISI) have worked with,” she said.

A sixth form centre teacher, who also requested anonymity, said some teachers were even assigned “sub-admin duties” by their subject department head.

She said during events such as National Day, teachers may be involved in sub-committees that may last from a week to a few months.

Some of these roles are food committee, field trainers, supervisors, cleaning committee and transport committee, which requires teachers to be out of school.

“Sometimes teachers are asked to be ‘cleaners’ and ‘security guards’ too in a few schools. Some of these duties could be outsourced to non-teachers because you don't need a teaching qualification to do these work.

“When we raised issues like ‘we have classes to teach’. Normally their answers would be 'Oh never mind. You could have an extra class on weekends to make up for these classes’,” she added.

Acting Director of Schools Zaman Hj Gapar acknowledged that administrative tasks are more prevalent in government schools compared to private schools that employ non-teaching staff to handle these tasks.

He said the job of a secondary school teacher is to teach one subject, act as form teacher for one class, supervise one co-curricular activity (CCA) and given one administrative duty such as the exam section, finance section or student affairs.

Teachers may also receive tasks assigned by their own subject department which varies in different schools.

He said these duties are not compensated monetarily because teachers are not exempted by the civil service scale and only higher position such as principals and deputy principals are given allowances.

Zaman said teachers are required to undertake administrative tasks to allow them to gain an understanding of the inner workings of a school, for their professional growth as a leader and a member of the school.

“Doing these duties is a way for them to learn the trade of administration. Individually it is to them to have the ability to move up the ladder. If teachers do not learn about this job, they won’t know how to run the school,” he added.

The acting director went on to say that when he was still working in schools, he taught social sciences, geography and economics before becoming a principal.

“I went through all these positions. I was looking after examination, looking after admin, finance, timetabling and welfare,” he said.

Zaman said the work of teachers is divided between responsibilities and duties. Responsibilities are those that can only be handled by a teaching staff, including taking attendance, handling student letters and managing timetables with the department.

Duties on the other hand are not specific to teaching, such as the finance section, student affairs and administrative section.

Teachers being overburdened by administrative tasks was even brought up at last year’s Legislative Council (LegCo) sitting, when a member said teachers will suffer with a decline in their productivity, and ultimately have a negative effect on students.

LegCo member Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Maharaja Kerna Dato Paduka Seri Hj Yaakub POKMD Dato Paduka Hj Zainal previously suggested administrative tasks be given to jobseekers or graduates with a degree in public policy management.

He said this would allow teachers, the most important factor in education, to focus on their teaching of students.

The then education minister, YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awg Abu Bakar Hj Apong, had said it is the responsibility of school leaders to take care of their school administration.

However, he said the administrative tasks are shared with school teachers more often than not.

The Brunei Times