Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Teachers' Pay

I was fortunately enough to have another question scheduled at No. 4 which was responded to orally by the Deputy Minister of Education II, Dato' Razali bin Ismail on Monday. This specific question relates to one of DAP's manifesto items, that is to call for a special class of teachers' civil service pay in order to attract the best talents to the education service sector.
[PETALING JAYA UTARA] minta Menteri Pelajaran menyatakan, apakah strategi kerajaan untuk menarik graduan-graduan yang lebih bermutu untuk berkhidmat dalam bidang pengajaran supaya anak-anak Malaysia akan mendapat mutu pengajaran yang lebih tinggi. Adakah gaji guru-guru akan ditingkatkan untuk tujuan tersebut.
You can read the full answer from the Deputy Minister here in the Hansard on page 10.

In brief, the Ministry has put in place some policies which are meant to raise the quality of teachers including better teacher selection system, better training, better teaching environment, better incentives and allowances as well as better promotion prospects.

He also noted that a new teacher with degree qualifications start off with RM1,695.85 with cap pay of RM4,645.85 per month, which doesn't yet include other incentives.

Basically, he didn't really comment on the need to raise the starting pay as well as pay scale of teachers, as a key policy decision to attract better talent to the force. Hence my subsequent supplementary question pressed the Deputy Minister on this point.
Terima kasih Tuan Yang di-Pertua, terima kasih Timbalan Menteri. Adakah Yang Berhormat Timbalan Menteri sedar di Singapura gaji permulaan bagi seorang siswazah... [Dewan riuh]

Sedarkah, hendak tahu Timbalan Menteri sedar soalan ini... [Dewan riuh]

Adakah Timbalan Menteri sedar bahawa di Singapura gaji permulaan adalah daripada 2,800 Dolar Singapura dan sekarang di Malaysia RM1,700 sahaja. Kalau bakal yang berbakat perguruan tidak ditarik masuk dalam bidang perguruan macam mana kualiti perguruan akan dipertingkatkan supaya pelajar-pelajar kita mendapat kualiti pelajaran yang lebih baik.

Saya harap Timbalan Menteri akan memberi pertimbangan kepada cadangan supaya gaji guru diberi kelas yang special, eksklusif supaya wang Petronas yang banyak pendapatan ini dapat kita gunakan dengan lebih berkesan. Terima kasih.
To this, the Deputy Minister responded
Kata orang lain padang lain belalangnya. Lain suasana, lain negara lain pula kaedah-kaedah perkiraannya itu... [Tepuk]
He continued with a repeat of the fact that teachers who performed well are given fast track treatment.

I was of course disappointed with the above answer for to say that policies in Singapore, which is a proven centre for educational excellence from primary to university levels should not be used as an example to emulate in one form or another in Malaysia.

The Ministry of Education must adopt the open minded attitude that while Singapore's clearly our competition, we should pick up what they have done right to achieve what they have today, in order to make ourselves better able to compete with them and the rest of the world.

While starting pay isn't the sole factor affecting the quality of teachers, it is certainly a very important starting point to attract the best talents to the force. The impact of quality education cannot be underestimated for it will make the difference as to whether our human capital is able to lift themselves to the next level, in the face of competition and globalisation, as opposed to stagnation, and continual decline relative to our neighbours and competitors.

Hence, it has always been argued here and in my Education blog, no expense must be spared, particularly in utilising temporal and extraordinary profits from our oil and gas industry to ensure that our productivity will increase sufficiently to replace the loss of income anticipated from the depletion of oil reserves in the years to come.


Anonymous said...

In a way, I will agree with the govt. A blanket salary raise will not necessarily contribute to an improvement in teaching standards. Instead, it will only contribute to additional inflation.

Why? Unfortunately, there are MANY teachers who are not putting in the effort in school. Giving a raise will not change this fact... unless it comes with 'achieve standards expected or be fired'.

Without the system of accountability, better to reward the performers using fast-track incentives.

Anonymous said...

itis VERY disappointing to hear the answer responded by the deputy minister for saying- 'Kata orang lain padang lain belalangnya. Lain suasana, lain negara lain pula kaedah'
well, this means they are not willing to learn from other countries' strenghs, and are damn proud of themselves. with this kind o attitude, how are we going to compete with other contries and thus improve and upgrade ourselves? now, we're talking about EDUCATION only, how aboutother disciplines? are they contented with what we have achieved and thus thinking that we do not need further development and improvement?
furthermore, the approximate 1.7K raising salary for new teachers are indeed LOW. of course there are incentives given, but with the living cost and inflation raising higher each day, how can they expect teachers to have enough for living? moreover, with the newly established rules imposed which giving tuitions is something prohibited among teachers, part-time income is now reduced. .how to survive?

ryansoh said...

Spilt milk, but too easy to get shot down with rhetoric by making absolute comparisons Mr. P.

In the future try relative, for example, Singaporean teacher's salaries (guessing here) being in line with the SG national average wage vs Malaysia's which is (probably) substantially lower than the MY national average.

In fact, can develop it further. If they want "world class" (as I think they have) we should be spending *more* than just in line... so why haven't we?

Go on, take your pick: "This government has led our nation's future astray", "this government says one thing but does another", "not serious, isn't prepared to put its money where it's mouth is", "national blueprint or national disaster?" etc.

Too bad we don't have PM's Question Time, but maybe just as well for BN - the prospect of eventually getting properly tapau'd by Dato Seri Anwar isn't exactly fun. Would be good television, though!

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony,

It happened again, FRU beating a passerby until he has to received treatment in ICU. I have been posting comment regarding this incident around PR MPs blogs although I know our dear MPs were well aware of this incident. This is a small protest from a rakyat who can't stand our police force anymore.

Police are supposed to PROTECT the rakyat, NOT HURTING them

Thanks for keep updating us regarding matters in parliament

julian said...

tony, everything you say is right. the same applies for judges, police, govt doctors, armed forces and even MPs, deputy ministers and prime ministers. these professions arguably carry as much gravity as teachers (with much due respect to teachers). can the country afford it is the question.

money of course would help. there commercial professions that are valued at market prices and there are vocations. pride in your calling and service to the nation is priceless. we've lost that.

Meiyen said...

I am a little confused on the term 'best talents'. How does one judge a teacher's talent? What is more important is a need for more qualified and dedicated people to be teachers and not a dump for people's last resort to venture into because they do not fit anywhere else in the job market.Take a closer look at the teachers today and you have to wonder if some of them do deserve to be called teachers.

Anonymous said...

I agree that pay is a critical issue in recruitment.
However , I truly believe that the system in Singapore works because meritocracy and excellence permeate all levels of the education service.
In terms of recruitment, promotion, teaching-learning activities in the classroom, student selection for scholarships, Principalship, school-ranking... the list is endless.
I do believe I am in a position to make this statement having lived, worked and breathed the Singapore education system as first a student, then a Teacher and Head of Department.
If we truly want to improve our education system, we need a complete overhaul of the system together with a fundamental change in the philosohpy guiding the system.

Anonymous said...

There are more urgent issues regarding salary for teachers in Malaysia. You should first look into issues such as
(i) Teachers who further their education by obtaining a degree get a lower salary than teachers who remain as non graduate teachers
(ii) Graduate teachers who have masters and PhD do not get more pay than those with only a first degree
(iii) Senior teachers will reach their maximum pay and their pay will remain stagnant for years before retirement

If you visit blogsite you will read alot about discontentment among teachers and to have salaries like their counterpart in Singapore is like wishing for the stars

Anonymous said...

since teacher's training is provided by our public universities, it's also crucial to raise the requirements for acceptance into those courses. i have seen tesl undergraduates who cannot even form a grammatical sentence - not to mention that many of us were taught by teachers like since the 70s and 80s. it's a vicious cycle - the universities accept unworthy candidates, so the prestige of the course falls, and the best university applicants would not be attracted to it.

keep fighting, tony. we need you to speak up dor us.

Anonymous said...

While there are many teachers who are not putting in any effort now, not raising the basic salary of teachers will only exacerbate the problem by continuing the current trend of making teaching an unattractive option for people choosing a career.

Many of the people currently taking teaching degrees in universities are not even in the course of their choice. One of the contributing factors for this is because there are not enough applicants for the teaching courses and people who can't meet the requirements for other courses are dumped into these courses. Of course, there are still applicants who choose these courses on their on volition but they are few and far between.

You can, of course, argue that people who go for teaching because of the pay may not make good teachers but they are probably more competent than most of the cast offs from other courses. I think we should raise the salary of teachers if only to give an equal opportunity for teaching to attract the same talent as other professions.

Anonymous said...

Helo YB, I think you need more feed back on education, obviously you dont have a say on who to be employ and deploy as teachers in BN.Dont waste time. The teachers just dont seem to care. They are no where around to teach our kids and we have to POU Chap (tuition). They are in the shit opinion that "if you can afford tuition why waste my breath". They are lackasaidal in all aspects. No way you can just bring in "guru bermutu" ( no such word). Find a better question lah. Just dont teach our kids rubbishs. They dont speak engelish lah. And all guru berkutu have open up tuition centres. This is also acceptale by Unesco.

Anonymous said...

As a qualified trained Primary teacher in the 1960s, the starting pay was RM235 and the maximum pay was RM580. Nowadays, teachers got many times higher pay. In the 1970s, the rate of private tuition is less than RM5 per hour.

It is not the salary, but because people do not respect teachers anymore. Newspapers project the rich man (or so-called successful person wrt their wealth)with their wonderful story everday. Telling the story how they make the first million dollars. Only the wealthy persons are respected. Newspapers regards those Dato' & Tan Sri, but never respect those teachers. (e.g the papers insist to keep Dato', Tan Sri title, but make sure Dr is not with the name of those with PhDs) because teachers/PhDs will not pay adverts in the papers.

Anonymous said...

When one pays peanut, he gets monkey. As simple as that.

But some MPs still behaving like monkey even we rakyat pay them big bucks. Sad right?

Anonymous said...

To anonymous 3.22pm,
Its the attitude of parents like you that produce kids who don't respect teachers. Its not the low pay or the endless tasks that lowers a teacher morale but people like you ( and your kids) who look down on the teaching profession.

Anonymous said...

Please don't just comment about teachers.

Peeks into teachers problems;

howcan said...

Tony, thanks for raising this all-important issue. The Deputy Minister's reply displays the typical BN delusional fetish for 'strategies' and 'blueprints', and for quantity (wah, 100,000 applicants! thump, thump!). And then he plays the evasion and nationalist card. I guess we shouldn't expect much from Hishamuddin's understudy.
But I think the comparison with Singapore should be approached from another angle. I doubt there are many Malaysians opting between teaching jobs in Malaysia and teaching jobs in Singapore. Many certainly hop to the island for other jobs - although it would be insightful to know how many Malaysians are actually working as teachers. My sense is that Singapore draws its school workforce primarily from its population. The more critical issue is the quality of graduates drawn into the teaching profession - something Singapore appears to have done remarkably well. I know of top students who are now teachers. That is almost unheard of in Bolehland. The more important comparison is not the salary difference between Malaysia and Singapore, but between the salary and benefits accruing to teachers within each country, relative to some reasonable benchmark, such as average income. We need to look at after-tax income - Singapore's rates are lower.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


This is a huge topic - improving the quality of teachers which will ultimately lift our education standards. This challenge needs a multi-pronged solution, as I am sure you are aware, and raising salary of teachers is but one. I applaud you for starting the ball rolling.

From my experience, it is not wise to bring up "Singapore" in any comparison (even if it is in a social setting or in the workplace) as there has been so much negative emotions built into the name since the previous administration. I learnt this the hard way. Having spent 20+ years across the causeway, and just returned home two years ago, I am apt to quote and substantiate my arguments with what I know about Singapore, but inevitably, they are taken the wrong way. So I am slightly wiser now.

Well, back to the point, you may instead wish to refer to the well-respected McKinsey report on education which concluded that the quality of teachers is the SINGLE most important factor in ensuring excellence in an education system. And in the report, three countries were cited as leaders in quality education: Canada, Finland and Singapore.

Malaysians can take comfort that questions on teacher remuneration have surfaced in many countries. Just last week, Australia started debates on raising the salary of teachers, thus validating the importance of teachers in education. Before this, HK and US were grappling with this issue on how much to pay teachers, and how to reward good performance. I don't think anyone has the solution. Though I would say that the Singapore model works well :)

Thus, it is myopic to say that we, in Malaysia, do not need to re-visit this issue. The people up there need to know this.

Anonymous said...

If people do not agree to raising the salary of teachers at the moment - though we can keep fighting for it - I feel there is something that we can do immediately which has less ramification. I will explain below.

We can create a separate category of government scholarships – Scholarships For Teaching - to attract some of our brightest to the teaching career. For good students who are determined to further their studies, overseas or locally, this would be an opportunity for them to do so. They would quickly realize that if the competition is less keen for this type of scholarships (versus those who want to do medicine or engineering, for example), their chances of success are higher. These scholars must of course be bonded for maybe up to 5-7 years.

We hope that by the time these scholars are ready to serve, the salary scale, career development path and prestige for the profession would have improved and they will be encouraged to stay on thereafter.

Better still, by that time, we may have developed a new philosophy to guide the education system in Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

What should we do with armchair principals and headmasters? Some of the armchair principals are receiving salary as high as the Pengarah. Yet many of them seldom walk around the school, and even if they walk around, they will scold the teachers if there are some students who are notorious or noisy. If only we have a principal who walks around frequently, and scold the students instead of the teachers, it will give a message to the students that they have to be disciplined. The teachers will also feel that they need to improve their class control. I have taught for the past 20 years, and I find that the present generation is extremely rebellious. Some of them refused to learn. They just won't. I tried to make my lessons interesting but to no avail. They are just not interested. I even talked to parents of students who often sleep in class. Some of the parents admitted that they cannot control their own children. Many are loafing late into the nights, some of them are working, and some of them are playing computer games using the notebook given by the government.

I personally feel that the money for the notebook for students should be used to buy the projector to be insalled in each classroom. I have bought my own laptop (the second laptop) and speaker. And most of the projectors given during the programme PPSMI are spoilt. Can't use the government allocation to buy projectors and computers. Felt very, very sad. Really wanted to help the students who are lost in the present education system.

Being a teacher is not easy nowadays. We have tons of paper work. Let me give one example - one examination mark must be keyed in at least into 3 different systems. Let say we have 4 or 5 classess, and each year we have four examinations, please do some mathematical calculation, and you'll see the donkey task. Normally, we key in the marks at night when the line is not congested. (sigh)

Anonymous said...

I have seen that most of the time, salary increase did not correspond with the productivity, quality and commitment given to the job. the notion that "increase salary and will do good job" is bull-shit! It boils back to the attitude of teachers. a lot of teachers grumble salary not enough, however, even though almost every year since, the government make announcement for salary raise on every teachers' day.. they still behave the same way...only more grumble and asking for more money....a lot still devote time to make money outside by giving tuition and neglect their responsibility at school...or playing "tai-chi" so that they don't have to spend extra hours at school to attend to their tuition classes!

Anonymous said...

What about the salary of public university lecturers? why nobody talks about it? Lecturers have all sorts of KPI to achieve, not only teaching work...but whole lot of administrative work, research, writing books, publishing, ensure students marketability, writing modules, looking for international grants and get it,...etc...and every year we heard a lot of teachers grumbling around...