Reforms geared towards retaining teachers, says education minister

One teacher has voluntarily resigned every day since the beginning of this academic session.

Figures available from the education ministry state that in the last five months, 120 teachers have resigned compared to 200 teachers who have resigned in 2016.

In 2015, 142 teachers tendered their resignations. Records show that a total of 1,464 teachers have left the profession in the last five years.

However, the education minister, Norbu Wangchuk, said that the situation would improve after the ministry completes their reform process. “But teachers leaving in the middle of the academic session is a big challenge,” he said.

A teacher in Samtse, requesting anonymity, told Kuensel that most teachers attribute workload, poor working conditions and low earning in influencing their decision to leave the job. He said that Australia is the ultimate destination to many.

He said that even if working conditions, the amount of workload and remunerations are improved, the Australian dream will always be there and ambitious ones would keep seeking for greener pastures.

In terms of earnings, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said that what they earn in Australia could never be compared to what the government could afford.

“Teachers are leaving and would continue to leave, but it is our job to make sure that they are happy here,” he said.

This is the reason, he said, that the whole reform in the education system was initiated.

He said that Nu 100M was spent last year in transformative pedagogy as part of the professional development programme for teachers. “This year the ministry will spend over Nu 100M for effective communication in English.”

While the administrative and management burden from the teachers is being shredded, lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said that the ministry is also reviewing the workload of teachers.

The ministry has also initiated works to provide masters degree to all teachers as announced by the Prime Minister in his state of the nation address.

In the 12th Plan, lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said the major infrastructure work in the education sector is to provide a decent living apartment to teachers in remote areas. “Within the same Plan, the government is also considering a financial incentive for teachers,” he said. “We need to bring the teachers at the centre of nation building, raise their morale, motivate and improve their working environment.”

Marking the national teacher’s day by offering red carpet to the teachers, according to the minister, is one such initiative to brand teachers as the focus of the society.

He said there are numerous reforms initiated and all these reforms are geared to make teaching attractive.

However, during one of the meet-the-press sessions in April this year, the Prime Minister said that the country shouldn’t be too concerned because it is the fundamental right of every Bhutanese to work where one wishes and at the place of their choice.

He said that teachers leaving the job voluntarily in 2016 are a meagre 2.4 percent of the teaching force. “In terms of percentage, it’s quite normal throughout the civil service.”

Lyonchhen also said that the resignation of teachers also opens up opportunities to other graduates to join the teaching profession. “Teachers are resigning not because they are unhappy with their jobs but for greener pastures and better opportunities in private schools and abroad,” he said.

Tshering Dorji