Discussions on teachers' workload and working hours have increased over recent years. More and more teachers are burnt out over the heavy workload as a MOE teacher.
The workload as a MOE teacher is much heavier than it seems. On the surface, it may seem as if a teacher's workload is manageable.
It is also assumed that teachers get breaks during the school holidays. However, in reality, this isn't the case.
This brings up the topic of whether it is better to be a MOE teacher or a private tuition teacher. In this article, we would compare the workload, salary, career progression, and other factors.
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What defines a MOE teacher and private tutor?
A MOE teacher is anyone who is teaching or has taught in a local government school in Singapore. These teachers are trained to deliver the local curriculum to the students in local schools. Most MOE teachers would have graduated from the National Institute of Education (NIE).
Next, what defines a private tutor? A private tutor specialises in teaching in small groups or as individuals. There are mainly 2 types of private tutors: one provides home tutoring, whereby tutors would travel to their tutees’ homes to provide their service or work at a tuition centre.
MOE teacher salary vs tuition teacher salary
In Singapore’s context, teachers are quite highly paid. Research has shown that the median gross monthly income for graduates who found permanent full-time jobs is $3,800 and the starting monthly salary of secondary school teachers can start from $4,080 per month!
With higher level education, teachers in a junior college or centralised institute’s starting pay can start from as high as $4,800.
With career progression over the years, the monthly income can increase by approximately $2,000 with 20 years in the industry.
On the other hand, private tutors do not have a fixed monthly income. The amount of income they would receive for the month depends on the number of classes they held that month. This also depends on the number of students in their class.
There are 4 types of private tutors: part-time tutors, full-time tutors, current MOE school teachers and ex-MOE school teachers. The pay also varies with experience based on these 4 categories.
Part-time tutors are usually students who are A-level graduates or undergraduates. With the limited amount of experience and qualifications that they have, they earn between $25/hr to $50/hr depending on the level they teach.
Full-time tutors usually teach in a group for a certain tuition centre. These tutors are paid by the number of students attending the lesson, and the number of classes they open a week.
On average, full-time tutors can easily earn $7,000 every month!
Current MOE school teachers are tutors who teach tuition outside of their usual job for extra income. These teachers are NIE-trained and certified. With the given qualifications and experience, their rates tend to be higher as compared to part-time and full-time tutors.
On average, current MOE school teachers earn around $50/hr to $70/hr for primary and secondary school levels, and $90/hr to $110/hr for JC level. However, these teachers are usually very busy and only have a few students as they have long working hours on the weekdays.
Ex-MOE school teachers are teachers who left the teaching industry to become full-time tutors. These tutors usually charge a higher rate than full-time tutors due to the qualifications and experience they have.
Similar to current MOE school teachers, their rates are similar, maybe $5/hr to $10/hr less than current MOE school teachers. However, as these tutors are working full-time, they can earn up to $8,000 per month if they work hard.
Comparing full-time tutors and MOE teachers, full-time tutors working in a centre can easily earn double the starting pay of a tuition teacher working in a tuition centre.
Hence, many teachers do not stay long in the teaching industry. On top of that, there are other factors such as the long working hours.
MOE teachers do not have a work-life balance
In 2021, an article on teachers being burnt out was published, having teachers talk about the struggles they face.
Due to the pandemic, teachers also faced a heavier workload with the uncertainty of the restrictions and management measures imposed by the government.
According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Singapore teachers work an average of 46 hours per week in 2018, which is 7 hours more than the average.
Teachers usually bring back assignments to grade, and on top of that, they would have to prepare the lesson materials for the following day. Their work does not stop when they get home.
Other than academic development, MOE also aims to nurture students holistically. There would be Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs) that students have to take up for holistic development. Teachers would then have to plan for events, organise CCAs, and discipline and counsel students.
Many times, there would be an annual school-wide event where all teachers would be involved in the organisation of the event. On top of teaching, there are many other events teachers are involved in, resulting in a heavy workload and long working hours.
Hence, many have little time for their friends and family. With such long working hours, there is little work-life balance in the job, making the job as a MOE teacher less enticing.
Tutors on the other hand have a more flexible working schedule. They usually start work after students end school around 4.30 pm to 8.30 pm on weekdays, and half day from 12 pm - 4 pm on weekends.
For full-time tutors working in a centre, they would be able to plan the timing and days they would like to have lessons with the students, bringing about more flexibility in the job.
Furthermore, the working hours of full-time tutors are usually shorter as they start when school ends and last until about 8 pm to 9 pm. However, this would also mean that their weekday nights are usually scheduled with work, compromising their free time.
On the weekends, they also have to work for a few hours as students are occupied with school on the weekdays. There are both benefits and downsides to every job.
Remuneration packages for teachers
In Singapore, there are remuneration packages specially for teachers by the government. Take the CONNECT Plan, for instance. This incentive plan encourages teachers to stay in the teaching service, where a sum of money is set aside by MOE each year for eligible teachers.
Payouts are given out on top of their regular salary. Should they stay in the teaching service for 30 years, they would receive a $168,000 payout! You can find out more details and what you can do with it by reading this article!
On top of this plan, there are bonuses such as non-pensionable annual allowance, performance bonus, etc. There are also medical benefits, dental benefits and group insurance schemes to ensure that their well-being is taken care of.
How to become a MOE teacher in Singapore?
To become a MOE teacher in Singapore, you must have a university degree, diploma, ‘A’ levels certificate or an IB diploma.
There is a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) programme for degree holders who want to become teachers.
You will need to go through the training programme at the National Institute of Education (NIE) to equip you with the knowledge and skills to teach school subjects.
This also gives you a better understanding of Singapore’s teaching curriculum.
The training at NIE is fully funded by MOE and you will need to serve a 3-year teaching bond after completing the PGDE programme.
A monthly salary between $2,810 to $3,650 is given during the Contract Teaching Stint in school and during NIE training.
Comparing MOE teachers' and private tutors' salary
As mentioned earlier, the starting pay of MOE teachers can range from $2,500 to $4,800 depending on the education level. On the other hand, full-time private tutors can earn up to $7,000 per month at a tuition centre.
1. Working hours
Comparing the working hours of MOE teachers and private tutors, MOE teachers work 13 to 14 hours a day, while private tutors work 4 to 6 hours a day.
The working hours of private tutors usually start later in the day and they have to devote their weekends to work too. Similarly, work-life balance is hard to achieve as a MOE teacher too.
Comparatively, private tutors have shorter working hours than MOE teachers and are also paid more than them.
However, private tutors do not receive the same benefits as school teachers from the government. MOE teachers receive remunerations, allowance and also medical benefits on top of the salary earned.
MOE teachers also have a more stable income compared to private tutors.
Both jobs have their pros and cons. It usually depends on what one prioritises (stability or working hours) in a job.
Are MOE teachers allowed to moonlight?
MOE teachers are allowed to moonlight with a 6-hour guideline. Under the MOE rules, MOE teachers can give up to 6 hours of private tuition a week.
However, they are not allowed to give paid tuition to students from their school or work for tuition centres.
Besides that, their work should not affect or conflict with their responsibilities in school. The use of resources and materials obtained in the course of their duties should not be used.
Whether being a MOE teacher or a private tutor is better depends on your priorities. If you prioritise stability and career progression over the years, being a MOE teacher is more suitable for you.
However, if you prioritise short working hours and higher income, coupled with less stability, then being a private tutor is more suitable for you.
There are benefits to being a MOE teacher with the incentives paid out by MOE to encourage teachers to stay in the teaching service.
However, many are tempted to leave the service due to the attractive incomes ex-MOE teachers can earn.
There are pros and cons to both jobs, hence it is important to identify what are your short-term and long-term goals so that you can make the best decision.