Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Fixed working hours" not suitable for teachers

"The government is best which governs least," wrote Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), one of the greatest American philosophers, in his Civil Disobedience first published in 1849. Unfortunately, few governments, or government officials to be exact, including of course Taiwan's, on earth really appreciate the essence of these words.

To comply with the revision of labor law that allows teachers to organize unions, our omnipotent Ministry of Education began to regulate working hours for elementary and high school teachers. Right after the announcement of education officials' plan to set an 8-hour/day, 5-day/week working time for teachers nationwide, tons of controversies are raised.

How do you calculate the time teachers have spent talking with parents of their students over phones after school? The officials said that teachers may have to record the beginning and ending time of their telephone conversation. Can teachers use this record to apply for overtime pay to the accounting office of their school?

How do you time teachers' work when they take their students for a field trip on weekends? Can those hours be counted deductible from their regular 40-hour/week?

What about the time do teachers spend to give low graders extra review lessons? Should such time be counted in part of their summer and winter vacations?

Based on the unique nature of teachers' job, even the National Teachers' Association, an organization long credited to work very hard for teachers' rights, tended to support "system of job responsibility" instead of "fixed working hours," why don't the officials of MOE, of whom many were teachers themselves, get it? Do take Thoreau's advice, and stop the plan.

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