Stretching the teachers thin

Struggling students: According to Fouzi, SPM students were the most likely to be affected by the teacher shortage due to the retirement of experienced teachers. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Shortages of teachers are more pronounced for the Bahasa Melayu, History, Islamic Studies and English subjects, says the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP).

The group’s secretary-general, Fouzi Singon, said if each school were to face a shortage of just one teacher, the shortage nationwide could total 10,200 teachers.

“There are schools with (a shortage of) more than one person, especially in Sabah and Sarawak,” he said, adding that the issue in those two states was attributable to recruitment quotas.Other areas that have also been affected by such a shortage are Johor Baru and Kuala Lumpur.

Fouzi said Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia students were the most likely to be affected due to the retirement of experienced teachers.

He said other teachers would fill in to ensure lessons were not disrupted in the event of a shortage or if teachers had meetings or extra-curricular activities, were on sick leave or had left school.“Sometimes, teachers don’t even have enough (time for) recess,” he said, adding that classes could stretch from 7.40am to 2.30pm.Asked about solutions, he said the Education Ministry must ensure that it tabled reports on its projection for manpower needs.

“The MOE must conduct at least two meetings a year with stakeholders like the Higher Education Ministry, universities and teachers training colleges.

“Accurate projections should also be shared with all universities that train these future teachers,” he said, adding that an accurate projection was necessary as teaching courses could take up to five years.

Meanwhile, a vernacular school teacher in Penang said her school was short of two teachers, leading to other teachers filling in as substitutes and resulting in a packed timetable.

She is hoping for trainee teachers to be posted to the school to help alleviate the staff crunch.

“We also need a certain type of teacher as vernacular schools would prefer teachers who can teach in Mandarin or Tamil in order to teach the elective subjects,” she said.

Thus, teachers would be identified based on the types of schools they would be posted to through the tagging system, she added.

She said the ministry would usually issue offer letters six years in advance to future teachers who were in training colleges.

The offer for the posting would be done after taking into account factors such as shortages and retirement.

But she noted that there could be changes to the number of staff within the six-year period and that district and state education departments must find a way to resolve manpower issues.

Parent Action Group for Education (Page) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the shortage of teachers had worsened and expanded to more subjects, adding that school leaders would sometimes come up with temporary solutions such as enlisting retired teachers and calling in favours from educators within the fraternity to help.

“Parents, in the meantime, will have to be resourceful in organising and paying tuition teachers handsomely to bridge the gap.

“There needs to be some serious planning by the Education Ministry. For the longest time, it has continued to fail to even replace teachers who go on maternity leave with more than ample notice,” she said.

Deputy Education Minister Lim Hui Ying said on April 1 that the ministry was currently short of about 4.49% or 19,431 teachers due to mandatory retirement, voluntary retirement, promotion, study leave, unpaid leave, resignation and death.

She said the ministry would hold a special recruitment drive to address the shortage of teachers, especially in Bahasa Melayu, English and Islamic Studies subjects.

Based on the ministry’s projection, 16,886 to 20,081 new teachers are expected to be recruited for the next five years based on data from Dec 31, 2022.

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