People start careers in education because it is very rewarding to watch your students flourish and become knowledgeable in the subject you teach.
However, one cannot subsist solely on the love for one’s profession.
Having your work remunerated well gives you motivation and makes you feel that you are a valued member of society, which in turn raises the teaching standard.
In Singapore, you will come across two types of teachers: those hired by the Ministry of Education (we will refer to them as MOE teachers) and private tutors.
In order to become a MOE teacher, you must have appropriate qualifications and training at NIE. It is considered that MOE teachers generally earn a good salary from the initial stages of their career. In addition, they receive regular pay raises as their career progresses and they gain more experience.
Private tutors also have all the qualifications required to teach children (or adults). However, unlike the MOE teachers, they are hired by parents (i.e. private individuals) based on the recommendations and their resume.
Deciding which path to take is rather difficult.
So, for this reason, the article aims to shed some light on the earnings of these two types of education professionals, as well as some other factors connected to these two types of jobs.
1. The MOE teacher's annual salary and bonuses
Compared to other countries teachers in Singapore are paid quite well. An average secondary school teacher can earn approximately $70,000. Read this interesting blog: Teachers Salary in Singapore and Workload.
Whereas the yearly income of an average primary school teacher is around $58,000.
A general education officer in Singapore can make at most 2,300 dollars a month if they hold a diploma, and a maximum of 3,500 dollars a month if they hold a postgraduate diploma.
In addition, full-time MOE teachers in Singapore get CPF contributions, as well as medical insurance and dental insurance. However, they do not get a paid parental leave from work.
Also, they get approximately 15 salaries per year (if we add up all the annual bonuses).
2. The private tutor's annual salary and bonuses
On the other hand, tutors are self-employed and get paid hourly wages. And unless you are a specialized, high-level tutor you usually won’t receive any CPF contributions (which means that you are responsible for saving up for your retirement) or any annual bonuses.
They also have to organize their own medical and dental insurance. Established tuition centers have some of their tutors occupied full-time.
Those tutors can earn somewhere in the range of 3000 to 4000 dollars a month (without the bonuses which the majority do not get).
In terms of annual salary, full-time tutors earn about as much as the MOE primary school teachers in Singapore (approximately $58,000 a year).
However, unlike the MOE teachers, freelance tutors have to be on a constant hunt for students and even work on public holidays and weekends.
Compared to the MOE teachers, private tutors only get 10 salaries per year (as they are usually employed only during the school term).
That doesn’t mean that being the MOE teacher is automatically more lucrative. If you are an experienced private tutor who enjoys a good reputation among the students you can charge more for your work.
To make the best use of your time you can even organize group tuition classes which means that your earnings will double, triple, or even quadruple in size for the same amount of work. Another option during this period of Covid-19 is to provide affordable tutoring services via online which is gaining popularity due to safe distancing measures.
3. Cosidering all of the aforementioned factors why are some MOE teachers becoming private tutors?
Well, despite the fact that MOE teachers earn good money it is not commensurate with the hours they put into their work, whereas in case of a private tutor it is (i.e. they get remunerated for each hour they work).
And another reason is that in some cases, the salary is still not enough to cover the expenses the teacher may have.
Experienced and highly qualified MOE teachers who decide to become private tutors can earn as much as 10,000 dollars a month by booking themselves to the brim with group tuition sessions.
Also, MOE teachers tend to have relatively poor work-life balance.
Many MOE teachers complain about not having enough time for their personal responsibilities and about performing too many administrative tasks. And many MOE teachers bring work home to finish it up in the evenings or even at the weekends.
In addition, school teachers have to typically be at school at 7 a.m. whereas the tutors can set their own hours and later modify them in any way they please.
But the fact that MOE teachers start their day early doesn’t mean that they end it earlier as well. Some may continue working well into the evening hours marking various tests and students’ homework.
This is one of the reasons some MOE teachers prefer a career in private tuition. They feel that they have too many administrative tasks to perform at school that have very little to do with the teaching itself.
Some say that they spend as little as 40% of their time actually educating students.
4. The parental leave
If you are a private tutor who decides to have a baby you may still retain a portion of your students while looking after a newborn.
This may prove to be impossible to do for the MOE teachers. Because the demands of the jobs are so huge, many MOE teachers prefer to take a no-pay leave when they start a family. Read a former teacher's complaint about this matter.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
In conclusion, both types of jobs have their pros and cons.
While, at first glance, the MOE teacher’s position offers better annual salary and more perks, the administrative demands and other factors can be rather taxing.
Which is why many teachers are opting for the private tuition route where they have more control over their schedule.
In the end, both options can help you earn a decent living, and which path is right for you depends on your own personal lifestyle and the amount of work you are willing to put in.