3.5.1 Hours of work, workload and work-life balance

The 1966 Recommendation (Articles 89–93) calls for hours of work to be based on all dimensions of teachers’ work and on personal and family needs. However, in many contexts, teacher contracts are not explicit about exactly the definition of ‘hours of work’. Whether based on a definition of teaching/instructional time, presence at school/work or total expected hours of work by day, week, month or year, a teacher policy should set out teachers’ expected hours of work taking into consideration:Footnote 19

  • Teaching/instructional time as the core teacher responsibility based on numbers of learners and classes
  • Instructional support time based on lesson preparation, student assessment and counselling
  • Professional development time in or out of school, including personal reflection, mentoring, collaborative teaching and learning
  • ‘Administrative’ responsibilities, such as student supervision, record-keeping and other school management tasks
  • Extra-curricular activities, including after-school clubs, school trips and projects
  • Parent/guardian interaction time
  • Specific conditions applying to teaching and learning in rural, remote and disadvantaged areas, including double shifts and multi-grade classes.

In addition to defining teachers’ hours of work, it is within the remit of a teacher policy to define certain principles of classroom teaching, notably in relation to private tutoring, which in some contexts displaces classroom teaching (see UNESCO, 2014a: 271–72 for a discussion of this issue and examples of policy responses from a number of countries).

Where schools function in several shifts owing to insufficient schools or teachers for the school-age population, teachers are often required or choose to undertake multi-shift teaching. Where teacher salaries for single-shift teaching are inadequate, this ‘choice’ is actually a necessity. Multi-shift teaching leads to reduced instructional time for pupils and tired, less committed teachers; it jeopardizes education quality and is one of the factors contributing to low social and professional esteem for teachers in many poorer countries (ILO, 2012; UNESCO, 2010a; VSO, 2008). Policy-makers are encouraged to work towards phasing out multi-shift teaching as soon as possible; furthermore, teachers should not be obliged to teach multiple shifts through financial necessity owing to unacceptably low salaries (see Section 3.6).

A good teacher policy will allow for flexible workloads and time arrangements to meet teacher effectiveness and work-life balance goals, including arrangements favouring younger or older teachers, men and women with family responsibilities, teachers wishing to work part-time or in job-sharing arrangements, and teachers with special health conditions such as HIV status or a disability. Such policies will need to adjust for and, in as much as possible, avoid overly burdening teacher administration/management. They may include provisions for:

  • Flexible working hours — staggered hours and ‘flexitime’
  • Shorter or compressed working hours or weeks, including part-time work
  • Work- and job-sharing
  • Certain types of shift work
  • Individualized working hours, subject to respecting expected workload overall and learner needs (ILO, 2012; OECD, 2005).

3.5 Teachers’ employment and working conditions

3.5.2 Class size and pupil-teacher ratios (PTRs)