The coming week will be one of the busiest times of the year, not just for parents, students, and the education authorities, but for the Bhutanese business community. With schools announcing that there will be no free stationery provided this year students are rushing to fetch their own.
Every year we promise to be better planned, but leave all our preparations for the last minute. There is a growing need, however, to be more alert to emerging trends.
A glance at the board examination results declared earlier this week at least indicates that the public schools have lost ground to the private schools. Of the 16 toppers, only 5 were from our public schools.
The trend we see is that more private schools are breaking into the toppers’ list than public schools.
One reason could be the increasing rate of attrition in our public schools. Had it not been for the Covid-19 pandemic, our teachers’ attrition rate would have touched worrying heights. In the past two years, we saw it rise again from 3.8 percent to 4.5. Last year, 478 teachers exited the system of which 307 voluntarily resigned.
The joke going around is that it is no more difficult to get transferred to schools in Thimphu because teachers in Thimphu schools are exiting in droves for better opportunities elsewhere by the day.
Thimphu schools are under severe pressure from society in the form of demanding, and sometimes unreasonable, parents. We should appreciate and support greater professionalism in the running of schools at the central, dzongkhag, and school management levels. Often we see school administrations succumbing to pressures.
If seen from a statistical point of view it may not be as substantial but the rate of increase is worth taking note of. Moreover, the trend is that many of those teachers leaving voluntarily are those in the middle career level with substantial experience and expertise. Knowing why they are leaving the system could help fix the issue before things turn further south.
One reason why private schools seem to do better is the treatment of teachers. They are paid well and are paid better if their students do better for instance in board exams. Those teaching critical classes like Class X or XII are given fewer classes than the rest. Above all, the private schools that do well have an adequate number of teachers.
Although education is free in Bhutan, with the facilities and services improving every year, the demand is higher than the supply at all levels. Bhutanese people are investing more in education than ever before with many of us spending beyond our means to educate our children.
The trend is also that an increasing number of students are either not going to college in the country or dropping off halfway from college to study or work elsewhere. But that is a different issue altogether.