facebook7,220 Fewer Teachers By End 2019? The Fate Of Teachers Hangs In The Balance



7,220 Fewer Teachers By End 2019? The Fate Of Teachers Hangs In The Balance

profileMing Feng

Singapore’s Iron Rice Bowl, Broken?

Iron rice bowl.

Source: 90daykorean

If the first thing you think about is the metal rice bowls you see in Korean restaurants, you are thinking of food way too much!

An iron rice bowl is a term we often use to refer to occupation with guaranteed job security that promises stable income, benefits and a certain level of progression.

In Singapore, civil servants working for the government may have earned the prestige of “iron rice-bowl” career. But like how most good things come to an end, we are at a time where the usually perceived stable career routes are falling through the cracks of our ever-changing economy.

Singapore To Have 7,000 Fewer Teachers By End 2019

A Decrease In Permanent Staff In The Education Sector

We chanced upon the Ministry of Education Budget 2019 report and one particular set of number stood out from the rest.

The number of permanent staff in the education sector will be reduced to 40,184 from 47,836, a sharp decline of 7,652 employees. This cut in manpower comes mainly from Education Service. It is estimated that the number of permanent staff in the education service sector will be reduced to 32,567.

We are looking at a decrease of 7,220 staff when compared to 39,787 education service staff in the year 2018.

Are our teachers in trouble?

Source: Singaporebudget.gov.sg

Manpower Allocation – Ministry Of Education

If you are interested in the full list of statistics, on the number of teachers, ministers and staff in the Ministry Of Education, you can find the full list here:

Do note that teacher, falls under Permanent staff, Education Service.


Political Appointments




Senior Minister of State011
Senior Parliamentary Secretary022
Parliamentary Secretary200

Political Appointments




Accounting Profession333
Allied Educator Scheme1,5141,6331,450
Corporate Support9801,128934
Education Service36,01039,78732,567
Estate Maintenance333
Information Service222
Management Executive Scheme1,8092,1802,186
Management Support Scheme527840900
Management Support Scheme (language Officer)222
Mechanical Support111
Operations Support1,5481,6551,568
Shorthand Writers152815
Statistician ( Trade & Industry)111
Technical Support Scheme531544523





SkillsFuture Singapore449495495
Government-Aided Schools
(non-teaching staff)
Government-Aided Schools (Teaching staff)299691262
ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute6871101
Nanyang Polytechnic1,5951,7931,713
Ngee Ann Polytechnic1,7671,7421,697
Republic Polytechnic1,6941,6221,622
Science Centre Board245239239
Singapore Examination & Assessment Board219232232
Singapore Polytechnic1,5991,7931,800
Temasek Polytechnic1,5921,5921,550

Source: Singaporebudget.gov.sg

What Could Be The Reason Of The Cut In Manpower?

While trying to find the reason accounting for this manpower cut in the number of teachers, we realised that the recruitment numbers decreased from the year 2009 to the year 2015.

Number Of Teachers Recruited

YearRecruitment Numbers
20093,000 teachers
2010 - 20122,000 - 3,000 teachers per year
20131,400 teachers
20141,300 teachers

Source: Straitstimes.com

We chanced upon an article that indicates that the reduction in the hiring of teachers before the year 2015. Then, the focus of recruitment was mainly to replace teachers who left the teaching force.

While we do not have all the answers to the lesser number of teachers required, here are some of the possible explanations for this reduction in manpower.

Low Birth Rate

The effect of low birth rate might be kicking in with less demand for education due to the shrinking population. With fewer children to educate as time goes by, the need for teachers reduces too. Unless we can find a way to increase the birth rate or attract more students, this will be a constant worry.

Less Labour required Due To Technology

Another possible reason might be due to the advancement in technology that allows educators to teach a larger group of students, reducing the amount of labour required.

Abolishing Of The “Iron Rice Bowl”

The abolishing of “iron rice bowl” is not something that is uncommon.

Certain careers that are essential in the past have the possibility of making way for new skill sets required for the changing economy and needs of the nation.

To give a better idea, here are some of the jobs that did not exist ten years ago:

  • SEO Specialist
  • Social Media Manager
  • Grab Driver
  • App developer
  • Social Media Influencer
  • Cloud computing specialist
  • Drone operators
  • AI engineer
  • Vlogger
  • Youtuber
  • User Experience Expert
  • Data Miner

With the birth of new jobs, it also means the death of some.

Source: Finfacts.ie

This is actually nothing new. In the year, China reshaped its public institutions to improve public services which affected the jobs of 30 million civil servants.

Food For Thought

Source: Seedly Community

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Education remains one of the expenses which parents are willing to spend on. For someone who is still passionate about educating, an alternative career providing private tuitions, and giving enrichment classes can still give the same joy.

Having a career switch is definitely doable too, as long as one is keen to learn.

About Ming Feng
A stint in Bloomberg gifted me with a beer belly, which only grew larger when I moved on to become a Professional Trader. Now I turn caffeine into digestible finance-related content.
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