Addressing Dzongkha teacher shortage

Education ministry lost 2,716 teachers in 10 years – between 2008 and 2018. On average, about 3.6 percent of public school teachers had been leaving the profession. Close to 360 teachers left the system between 2017 and 2018. The number may not look big which could be why we are told that the issue is not a cause for alarm.

And now we are talking about shortage of Dzongkha teachers in schools. It took a policy shift to tell us that we have always been short of Dzongkha teachers. The shortage appears to have been aggravated by the change that required Dzongkha-trained teachers to teach the subject.

We may not have left Dzongkha classes without teachers in the schools where there is shortage of Dzongkha teachers, but could we, really? That would have been the least sensible and the saddest option to resort to.

Whether or not research methodologies are able to raise the alarm, there will be far-reaching impact on student learning. A plan seems to have been charted to bring down the shortage of Dzongkha teachers to about 50 by the end of the 12th Plan. The ministry has asked the Royal Civil Service Commission for 100 PGDE teachers this year, an increase from 35 in 2017. They are expected to be in schools by 2020.

Dzongkha teachers teaching the subject is always preferable to making do with non-Dzongkha teachers. However, the only option left with the ministry seems to be to go with encouraging general teachers (teachers not trained to teach Dzongkha) to continue teaching the subject. Employing teachers on contract may help ease the shortage of teachers to an extent but that is never the best solution. Addressing the teacher shortage with contract teachers is ministry copping out. Such a measure will have direct impact on quality of instruction and education.

While education ministry deserves our praise for the many interventions it has been employing to improve the system, seamless transition with adequate human resource in critically important. Increasing teacher intake should be looked at as one of the measures to address the shortage and the plan should be sustainable. Further to that, there is a need to understand why are teachers are leaving the system.

As education minister said this week at the 19th Annual Education Conference in Phuentsholing, that is looking at “pathways beyond five years”.

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