Dzongkha subject teachers top the list of shortage

With the country short of about 400 teachers, education minister, Norbu Wangchuk, said the ministry is trying to address the shortage with various strategies.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said teacher shortage is a trend that occurs every year and remains a challenge. However, he said that the shortage has improved from the past when the ministry faced shortages of more than 1,000 teachers one time.

“We agree there are overall shortages of teachers in different subjects, but we should not also deny that the shortages are decreasing every year,” Lyonpo said. “We never had enough teachers but we’re trying to increase the teacher intake every year to meet the requirement.”

Chief human resources officer Kinley Gyeltshen said that of the 400, most shortages exist in schools outside the urban centres. He said there is acute shortage of Dzongkha subject teachers besides ICT, History, Science, Geography and general teachers.

Kinley Gyeltshen said the shortage in Dzongkha subject was felt after the ministry in its last education conference decided that Dzongkha teachers should teach Dzongkha and EVS for classes PP-III instead of general teachers like it was in the past.

“But we try to ensure that no classes are left vacant and general teachers take care of the classes,” he said, adding that the shortage cannot be filled immediately.

He also said that the shortage was also a result of drastic reduction in teaching hours from 22 hours to 18 hours per week and the policy of one teacher one subject.

“Since we excluded vice principals and principals in the teacher requirement exercise, the shortage was felt this year,” he said. “The principals were expected to engage in administration and if we include them, the shortage won’t be huge.”

Kinley Gyeltshen said voluntary resignation, study leave, extraordinary leave (EOL), and maternity leave besides other reasons also contribute to teacher shortage in the country.

He said a total of 101 teachers are on study leave today compared to 122 teachers who were on study leave last year.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said teachers leaving for studies is not new and that, every time a teacher resigns in the middle of the year, the ministry gets replacement on contract.

Of the 340 teachers, who have left the school system from February – July 27 this year, 23.3 percent are on EOL, 26.8 percent resigned voluntarily, 30.6 percent are on study leave, 1.5 percent were transferred to different agencies, 9.7 percent were selected in different positions, 1.8 percent expired, 7.1 percent superannuated, and 2.4 percent are on deputation.

There are 175 teachers on maternity leave this year, for which 67 have been replaced on contract to date.

“It’s difficult to get replacement especially for remote places and some do not return after completion of EOL,” the chief HRO said.

Education secretary, Karma Yeshey, said the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations do not prevent anybody from resigning anytime after giving a notice period and they are entitled for EOL or study leave as long as they don’t have service obligation.

“But leave is not a matter of right,” he said. “If the system at certain point of time feels that we can no longer run with this kind of trend, then we will have to put few things in place.”

Kinley Gyeltshen said the shortage was also because of unsustainable schools where some 107 primary schools, which have less than 100 students each, are still open and require teachers. “We cannot provide teachers as required and this is why we have central schools to consolidate but some villagers still refuse to merge the schools.”

Excluding principals, vice-principals, those on EOL, study leave and maternity leave, there are about 7,778 teachers in 612 schools including 811 teachers in Thimphu thromde. There are about 168,000 students.

Last year, there were 7,538 teachers excluding 122 teachers on study leave, 93 on EOL, 26 who superannuated, and about 151 who had voluntarily resigned.

Yangchen C Rinzin