stress among secondary schools teachers in singapore

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Literature Review on Stress faced by Secondary School Teachers in Singapore



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In the contemporary settings, stress has become a common element in the humans’ daily lives. Issues such as financial crisis, autocratic employers and work overload pose as examples of stress that one faces daily. The contemporary society is characterized by high reliance on industrialization and technology thus giving teachers a stressful period in their line of work. It is universally accepted that the modern society has placed a critical obligation on the teachers’ shoulders. The aforementioned statement is attributed to the fact that the society considers teachers as the entity responsible for molding students thus preparing them for the challenges presented by the world. Consequently, with all these responsibilities placed on teachers they are usually susceptible to suffer from stress. From the above statements one comes to a conclusion that teachers’ stress can be correlated to the negative exposure of emotions like anger and frustration while undertaking their daily tasks (Lambert & McCarthy, 2006). In accordance with the views highlighted by Child (2004) in his work, he opines that the commencement of multiple innovations in the school setting act as a stressor in the teachers’ lives. Factors incorporated into the school setting such as more administration and time consuming systems of assessment act as the leading causes of tension in teaching (Kyriacou, 2009). This review will highlight on several domains of stress in relation to secondary school teachers in Singapore and provide an efficient way of tackling the stress. The paper shall focus on one workshop and expound on it to reveal its beneficence to handling stress.

Icebreaker exercise

First and foremost an exercise termed as the ‘icebreaker’ has to be conducted for the effective highlighting and execution of the critical problem namely stress in secondary school teachers. This review supports the establishment of the training manual for the Stress Management and Relief for Teachers workshop. This training manual shall be implemented in Singapore for the mainstream secondary schools. The workshop will be executed as a 4 hour programme during the regular break in school terms. The Stress Management and Relief for Teachers workshop play a more important role than the mere issuance of techniques for relieving stress in the workplace. The adoption of the aforementioned training manual reveals a new framework for managing stress other than merely treating the symptoms related to the stress (Townsend & Avalos, 2007). The underpinning of the SMART workshop is emotional intelligence. Once an individual is able to manage the stress in the workplace it acts as an advantage to the worker, since they increase their output (Menlo, 2009).

What is stress?

The first act in the complex process of better management of stress involves the effective identification of stress in the workplace (Keeves & Watanabe, 2003). The term stress is derived from the Latin language (strictus) to depict strictness. Stress has managed to become part of every individual’s daily communication and conversation. According to Selye (1974) stress is correlated to the pace of an individual’s life. With regard to the aforementioned statement anything horrible or interesting which is responsible for enhancing intensity in one’s life can affirmatively be responsible for stress. According to Hiebert there are three models of stress that one is to consider when highlighting the issues on stress. The first consideration is the environmental model also referred to as the stimulus event. Secondly, is the individual’s response and the final aspect is the boundary between the environs and the individual.

The Stressors

Generally, stress is discussed in a negative context and yet it can also possess positive values. Stress can be considered as a potential opportunity when it offers several potential achievements. According to Robert and other authors (2004) he expounds on a term referred to as ‘Eustress’. In simple terms Eustress is any form of stress which bears positive outcomes. Other authors opined that stressors may manifest themselves in environmental form. Under this domain the stressors which are environmental factors are responsible for accruing stress in an individual’s workplace. Generally, there are prerequisites to a teacher or any other worker experiencing stress reaction (Li & Hong Kong Institute of Educational Research, 2008). The stressors are further categorized into four distinct categories namely; organizational level stressors, group level stressors, individual level stressors and extra organizational stressors (cite). The impact the stressors have on individuals vary, with some having positive effects (self-motivation) while others having the negative or counterproductive effects.

All over Singapore, teachers are subjected to long working hours and to top it up there is no guaranteed job security. It is also evident that the nature of the job is transforming, the requirements of the employers and education ministry also changing thus leading to a highly competitive work domain. Due to the aforementioned facts the job is becoming more complex thus creating stress to the teachers. When a teacher strives to attain the required experience and the subjection to the current working environment, the individual is susceptible to suffer from stress. In turn this sort of stress adversely affects the teacher by causing physical problems to the individual, for example cancer (Price, 1970).

Why be concerned with stress?

It is universally accepted that stress experienced at the workplace acts as a source of multiple problems in a human’s circulatory system. This can lead to serious heart problems, for example heart attacks (Boey, 2010). Ultimately, when an individual is subjected to stress his/her body experiences adverse effects of the stress. The SMART workshop adopts both the overt and covert tendencies of individuals in the process of eliminating stress in the workplace. This strategy is developed to tackle the specific stressful situations that have been mentioned by the teachers. The workshop’s focal points are two conventional tactics to stress management namely; a psychological practice intended to highlight the negative perceptions attributed to stress and another psychological practice which reduces the physical level of stress thus aiming to eradicate stress mentally and physically.

In the psychological context, the key to coping is not found in the stressor but rather the coping mechanism (Kyriacou, 2000). The aforementioned author has the belief that it is the actual stress assessment and managing manner that has an impact on the magnitude of the reaction of the stressful impetuses. The SMART workshop accommodates cognitive restructuring practices to aid individuals to manage the stress through altering their stress evaluation and perception of stress induced acts (Palmer & Cooper, 2010). The process of cognitive restructuring involves the attainment of cognizance of any form of cognitive distortions and negative thought practices, challenging the detrimental thoughts and replacing them with more beneficial habits (Varvogli,& Darviri, 2011).

The SMART workshop’s psychological strategy is based on the ‘Relaxation Response’. This strategy is easy to learn since it is made up of abridged meditative stress interpolation mechanism developed by Benson (a Harvard physician). Previous application of the ‘Relaxation Response’ yielded positive results in reducing levels of stress of nurses in Taiwan (Tsai & Crockett, 1993).

After the actual implementation of the SMART workshop its generic core shifts from managing stress to improving an individual’s well-being (Emmett, 2008). Individuals who advocate for the well-being practice claim that the existence of positive evaluation and emotional states of employees tend to improve their quality of life and overall performance. Under such circumstances employees tend to have ‘optimal states’ which translate to happier and productive workers (Blömeke, 2013). Acording to Warr (1987), he asserts that there subsist five fundamental components that contribute to an individual’s mental well-being: namely, independence, aptitude, integrated operations, affective well-being and ambition.


In order for the successful advancement of quality of the education in Singapore, the state has to place its education system at the pinnacle of its priorities. The society considers teachers as the builders of the nation, thus the authorities should improve the working surroundings in the school settings.


Blömeke, S. (2013). Modeling and measuring competencies in higher education: Tasks andchallenges. Rotterdam: SensePublishers.

Boey, E. K. (2010). Teacher empowerment in secondary schools: A case study in Malaysia.München: Utz.

Emmett, R. (2008). Manage your time to reduce your stress: A handbook for the overworked,overscheduled, and overwhelmed. Macmillan Audio.Keeves, J. P., & Watanabe, R. (2003). International handbook of educational research in theAsia-Pacific region. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

Kyriacou, C. (2000). Stress-busting for teachers. Cheltenham: Thornes.

Kyriacou, C. (2009). Effective teaching in schools: Theory and practice. Cheltenham: NelsonThornes.

Lambert, R. G., & McCarthy, C. J. (2006). Understanding teacher stress in an age ofaccountability. Greenwich, Conn: IAP.

Li, Z., Shiu, L., & Hong Kong Institute of Educational Research. (2008). Developing teachersand developing schools in changing contexts. Hong Kong: China University Press.

Menlo, A. (2009). Meanings of teaching. S.l.: Information Age Pub Inc.

Palmer, S., & Cooper, C. L. (2010). How to deal with stress. London: Kogan Page Ltd.

Price, L. W. (1970). Organizational stress and job satisfaction of public high school teachers.Townsend, T., & Avalos, B. (2007). International handbook of school effectiveness andimprovement. Dordrecht: Springer.

Tsai, S. L., & Crockett, M. S. (January 01, 1993). Effects of relaxation training, combiningimagery, and meditation on the stress level of Chinese nurses working in modernhospitals inTaiwan. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 14, 1.)Varvogli, L., & Darviri, C. (April 01, 2011). Stress management techniques: Evidence-basedprocedures that reduce stress and promote health. Health Science Journal, 5, 2, 74-89.

Warr, P. B. (1987). Work, unemployment, and mental health. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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