COMING from a family of teachers, Alina Ali, 15, used to dream of becoming a teacher too.
But as she gets older, she feels that it might just be a lot of hard work with not much reward.
"When I was in primary school, I wanted to be like my mum, who teaches in secondary school. But now, looking at how stressed she is from all the work, I'm not so sure I want to follow in her footsteps anymore," she says.
Alina still feels that teaching is an honourable profession, and looks up to her teachers.
"But I don't think I can make sacrifices like them," she says.
It used to be that when you ask a class what their ambition was, more than a few would say "teacher". These days, teaching does not rank high among secondary school students and school-leavers as a career to aspire to.
Granted, the teaching profession has steadily lost the status and respect it deserves over the years. Lately, however, teaching's reputation problem has gotten worse.
Only recently, The Star reported that the number of teachers at government schools applying for early retirement has increased due to various grievances including a heavy workload and increasingly demanding parents.
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This issue is but one of the many perennial issues plaguing the teaching profession that have been reported over the years. Hence, there are fears that all this "negative publicity" will deter young people from becoming teachers.
Yeoh Cheng Yen, 19, shares that she too had thought about becoming a teacher when she was younger.
"It was not my main goal but I think it would be nice to be able to teach. I thought it seemed fun to be able to teach others," she says.
"Now I think the teaching profession is quite tough, not just because of the workload but also having to be able to communicate with students well."
To attract young people to become teachers in the future, she says the government has to ensure fairness among teachers, as well as a conductive working environment, one where there are no biases or racial issues.
"One way to encourage students would be to ensure the quality of teachers now, those who are able to guide students in a way they feel comfortable. I believe if students like their teachers and feel like they are receiving good education from them, I'm sure there will be more who aspire to also be able to educate others next time."
Sharing her experience in school, Yeoh believes there are "good teachers" and "bad teachers".
"I have definitely met amazing teachers in my life who motivate me and guide me, but I have also had not so pleasant experiences with teacher who are just not as responsible when teaching," she notes.
Tayanaa Logenthiran, 18, believes that teaching is a very noble profession.
"Teachers are the foundation for building the leaders of tomorrow. In kindergarten, teachers are the ones we look up to, as they are our first example of who we want to be when we grow up. As we move on into school, teachers instill discipline in us which we carry on for the rest of our lives, all while providing us an education – the basis of survival. They are the roots of what is soon to bloom into a beautiful tree," she says.
Tayanaa admits that becoming a teacher has crossed her mind because she would love to inspire young minds like how her teachers have inspired her. However, she decided against it as she does not think that it is something that she can do.
"I can never see myself as being as patient and understanding as the teachers we do have out there. I believe that the amount of hard work that they put into their career is unmatchable by most," she says.
To lure young people into teaching, especially the brightest and the best, Tayanaa believes that the government should elevate the status of teachers to the same level as other professions such as doctors and lawyers.
"I think that the current generation believes that the teaching profession is of a lower class than other professions. In my opinion, our government should make the change and treat teachers at the same level as doctors, lawyers, or engineers, rather than as a profession that is less regarded. After all, where would the professionals be without teachers?"
Faris Ahmad, 17, agrees.
"I don't think teachers are too low paid, but they are not getting the respect they deserve, even from some students and parents," he says.
Teachers are a special group of human beings and he is lucky to have had dedicated and hardworking teachers, he adds.
"I owe my teachers a lot," he says.
However, he is sure that teaching is not for him when he grows up.
"I don't think I'll have the patience to handle students like the way my teachers dealt with me and my friends," he says.
To attract more young people into the profession, Faris believes more needs to be done to give teachers the appreciation they deserve through better recognition and incentives.
Becoming a teacher has never been 18-year-old Amelia Jade Lim's ambition either.
"I found my passion elsewhere but I think teaching occurs everywhere. Teaching occurs in many different forms, be it a traditional teacher, lecturers, seminars, sports coaches or a mentor training a mentee who just entered the company.
"Although I have never seen myself in a traditional classroom, my teachers have inspired me to embrace the art of teaching and learning wherever I go," she says.
Teaching is a very noble profession, Amelia adds.
"Teachers have patience, tolerance, empathy and an abounding sense of altruism. I think becoming a teacher is like taking on any other profession but staying in the profession requires true tenacity. That's why I have utmost respect for all my teachers.
"I think teaching does pose more adversities than usual because it is a very fluid profession. You never know what students you'll get, how the syllabus will change, how to adapt your teaching methods (for example during the Covid-19 pandemic).
"However, my teachers, who have displayed such noble values no matter the circumstance, have left a profound impact on me and on many others, I'm sure. Thus, I think they are the most inspiring group of people out there, people we will never forget."
To get more young people to become teachers, Amelia says it's important that teachers are recognised for their work.
"I think the government could do more to commend teachers and their hard work so students will be inspired to become one as well."
For Ooi Shinz Jo, 18, teaching has been one of her ambitions.
"Yes, I have considered being an English teacher because I was passionate about English Literature and enjoyed sharing my knowledge with other classmates," she says.
Teachers have been present in the lives of most people, she adds.
"Some have even made a mark on our personal growth. Yet, their efforts are commonly under-valued as they suffer from burnout and struggling to meet both administrative and academic demands. Thus, we have heard of increasing cases of teachers being demotivated and losing their passion for teaching," says Ooi.
Young people need to be shown the important role teachers play in society, she opines: "For one, the government could allow teachers to have a greater say in the education system, so that young people can see that the impact teachers have go beyond the classroom. This will motivate them to become teachers."
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