TEACHERS here are some of the most hard-working in the world, clocking 10 more hours a week than peers overseas, said a study.
With an average age of 36, they are also the youngest across the 34 countries and economies surveyed in The Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis), which involved about 100,000 teachers and school leaders.
"The average age is 43, with Singapore having the youngest and Italy the oldest," the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which did the survey, said yesterday.
Singapore's 33,000-strong teaching force put in 48 hours on average a week, 10 hours more than the survey's average. But they spend less time teaching - 17 hours a week - compared with the average of 19, and more on marking or administrative tasks compared with peers elsewhere.
Mr Andreas Schleicher, OECD education adviser, said the fact that Singapore teachers work long hours may not be unusual as other workers here are also known to do so. "That being said, the fact that much of the additional time goes to administrative work and marking suggests that there may be room for reflection on how to structure the time of teachers more effectively," he added.
This is the first time Singapore is taking part in Talis, with 3,109 lower secondary teachers from 159 schools. Talis aims to help countries identify others facing similar challenges and learn from each other.
Singapore's Ministry of Education (MOE) noted that the Republic has one of the highest proportions of teachers trained in actual classroom practices before becoming teachers (98 per cent); and almost all teachers reported taking further courses. Most teachers - 88 per cent - said they were satisfied with their job, compared with the study's average of 91 per cent.
On the younger teaching force here, MOE said young teachers bring "diverse perspectives" and "renewed energy". They also devise innovative ways to engage students by using the latest technologies.
But support is there for young teachers, it said. They acquire the necessary skills and knowledge early on and are "systematically matched to experienced teachers who guide them in the art of teaching and building rapport with their students", it added.
As for longer working hours, Mr Wong Siew Hoong, deputy director-general of education (curriculum), said MOE appreciates that Singapore teachers want to do the best for their students.
But MOE will look into improving work-life balance. Mr Wong said the MOE hopes to provide more support by adding allied educators to help teachers. Mr Wong said the study "affirms that we have a committed, well-prepared and well-trained teaching force that is ready for the future".
Ms Ho Peng, director-general of education, said a key factor for Singapore's success in education is the quality of teachers.
Overall, Talis found that most teachers worldwide feel unsupported and unrecognised in schools and undervalued by society, despite enjoying their job.
Fewer than one in three teachers believes teaching is a valued profession, in contrast with 68 per cent of teachers here. The OECD said countries where teachers feel valued tend to do better in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), its global study of 15-year-olds' abilities in maths, science and reading.