Define the role of teacher assistants

  • Letters
  • Tuesday, 29 Dec 2015

IT is reported that the Education Ministry (MOE) is set to recruit teacher assistants to help relieve teachers of their clerical, administrative and other related non-teaching duties. I believe this news is most welcome by teachers.

I decided to “chat” online with a few serving teachers to find out the actual goings-on and their thoughts on this matter.

These teachers’ observations and comments deserve to be shared with all stakeholders and those who are in authority. I have paraphrased below what some of the teachers had said:

“The idea of teacher assistants has been discussed by policy makers in the MOE for many years. My school has a sampling of this in practice. A form teacher for example has another teacher as his or her assistant.

Two or three years ago when I was a form teacher, I had an assistant form teacher. I did everything a form teacher needed to do.

The assistant only helped me to mark class attendance when I was not in school; but that was seldom.

So if the job specifications are not clearly stated or the jobs are not equally shared, it will make little or no difference.”

“I am now the school examination secretary. I need to key in passwords to access certain websites of the examination conducting body when I register candidates, submit results of school-based exams and other records from time to time.

Here, confidentiality is very important. So, I am advised not to allow my assistant to help me with this. As a result, my assistant only takes care of the logistics part of the exam and I also help him whenever we need to arrange the exam hall and classrooms.”

“In fact, I like the way the private colleges handle their co-curricular activities. It is all run by other staff instead of academic staffs/lecturers. That way, the lecturers can fully focus on academic matters or teaching.

In schools today, teachers are everything, namely, trainers/coaches for games/sports, instructors/helpers/judges in competitions. Well, everything that one can think of.

So teachers always have to leave schools to ferry students for all kinds of activities. Then parents complain that teachers do not enter classrooms and parents have no choice but to send their children for tuition.

I think if all these co-curricular activities and competitions are taken care of by a group of non-academic staff, it will reduce the burden and absence of teachers from classrooms.”

So, here it is. Teachers want clear job specifications for teacher assistants. Teachers know the constraints involved in certain tasks. They hope to see a reorganisation and restructuring of co-curricular activities and responsibilities in school.

Teachers know best. They are the warriors on the ground. It is wise to consider their views whenever we propose to take a new school initiative forward.



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