COVID-19 Aftermath: Should We Pay Teachers More?

With prevalent health inequalities affecting communities worldwide, what are we doing to improve healthcare for those affected?

As the global population's health takes primacy due to the unfortunate event of COVID-19, institutions took an overnight decision to introduce virtual learning. Moreover, the pandemic had struck a light upon educators’ efforts and creativity towards providing the best environment for their students – but are we appreciating their work enough?

Educators Salary Pre-COVID

Educators all around the world have been voicing their thoughts about their salary. To clarify, 28 of the 35 countries surveyed stated that teachers are paid less than what the populace considers to be an adequate wage. Even when some countries like Singapore and Finland do pay their educators a high percent of the country’s GDP – it cannot speak for the rest. 

And yes, this is also happening in Malaysia. 

On average, a school educator with an experience of 1-3 years has an annual gross salary of RM55,641 (median value of RM 4,636.75 monthly) and the value could vary depending on the individual's academic qualification or experience. 

First, though it’s no secret that Malaysia has a low cost of living, that isn’t a reason to severely devalue or underpay an educator. India, having a lower cost of living compared to Malaysia, is still able to provide educators double their GDP. So, the question here is, are we appreciating right

Educators are constantly praised and verbally acknowledged for their dedication in educating our nation, the future generations. Yet, like many working adults, an educator’s financial stability is used as fuel for motivation. So, why aren’t they also shown appreciation through action? To place it quite plainly: You need to spend to attract good and motivated individuals because, when we attract the wrong group, we’re attracting a catastrophic future. 

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An Educator’s Challenge

The ideal of requesting educators to use their resources creatively may be justifiable, however, one in five educators purchase classroom resources with their own savings. This has been a disregarded challenge faced by most educators, because: the need for educators is increasing, concurrently the supply for educators is decreasing.

In spite of the developing acknowledgement of education's critical role in national growth, most countries' budget constraints are affecting our education quality. This is because institutions aren’t receiving sufficient subsidies for resources as the nation fails to acknowledge the importance of these resources. It’s vital to note that while some institutions are adequately equipped to compensate their teachers, several still rely on teachers to supply everything they require. 

Adding on to this list, educators with any different pay schemes don’t receive any overtime, even when extra work is visible. The common debate that follows this point is that teachers get paid more to sit in an online session and lecture. 

However, an implicit task that educators prepare every day is to rethink schedules for students and coordinate other school activities. This is especially highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, where educators are required to come to school, risking their health even when classes are conducted remotely, as they don’t only teach and plan lessons but also help in organising school events and club management

This is how an institute’s social structure defines an educators role. 

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Why do we not question the rewards for the efforts given by educators when they go out of their way to provide like we do for various other occupations like those in the medical field? Even though Malaysians truly respect an educators’ job, as according to GTSI Malaysia Poll, we still see a careless insolence and response towards their pay.

The On-going Consequences of Underpaid Educators

So, now that we’ve established the problem, where do we go from here? 

As actions have its consequences, underpaying our educators may lead towards a decline in teachers in the upcoming years. To be frank, the proportion of college students who wish to become educators has been descending for decades; this isn't surprising given that 55% of teachers state they would not want their child to follow their footsteps because the ratio of work, pay, and obtaining a degree isn't as lucrative. 

Teaching is indeed a chain reaction; lesser educators that are motivated nor have the resources to conduct a quality class results in students’ poor performances. Higher pay entices educators to place more effort, thereby enhancing the quality of their work and delivery.

Why does it matter? 

When more attention is given to an educator’s income, we can achieve social, economic, and civilisational progress. 

To keep it short if we want profit, we must invest, and there isn’t a better and safer place for investment than education. When a teacher's pay is raised by 1%, this increases the potential teachers in the industry by 0.6%. The real question is not whether we should pay all teachers more or less, rather it’s why aren’t we acknowledging educators as a form of national investment? 

Not to say that other departments are less worthy, but to highlight that investing in educators results in investing in the future. For illustration, a 10% rise in teachers' wages results in a decrease of dropout rates by 3% to 4%. Even though education isn’t a form of short-term solution for the economy or social progress, it has the longest visible impact on any nation.

What can I do? 

Fortunately for many Malaysian students, there are still several dedicated and passionate teachers who strive to improve and transform their lives despite the challenges. However, we're still at the losing end. We need change and it begins from appreciating what we have, especially during times like this. We shouldn’t let our future generation be in debt to educators. 

How can you show your appreciation aside from verbal applause? Try donating or volunteering to organisations like Yayasan Hasanah and Teach for Malaysia.

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It’s shocking to see that a teacher educates individuals of every other profession and career, yet no one educates themselves on the value educators bring. Educators have seen a fall like any other occupation especially during the pandemic, is this how we return our favours? Without them, where will you and I be?

We’re attracting the wrong people for the wrong attention. Teaching shouldn’t be called a ‘Holiday job’ (because of all the school breaks) but rather as an important foundation in grooming all individuals. 

Bottom line, it isn’t only about improving a nation’s economy, but it’s criminally unfair for us to construct and design the building of life without valuing the importance of the building blocks. 

Now is your turn to answer, when will we increase our educator's pay?

Ishaanaah Ravi is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Education at Taylor's University. She is also a member of the Taylor’s Leo Club and Girl Up. She enjoys reading and creative writing during her free time but also relishes conducting volunteering work, believing that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.