But is concerned with the overall welfare of teachers

While it is a concern that 200 teachers have voluntarily resigned in the first four months of 2017, the trend has been stable over the years, Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said at the Meet the Press yesterday.

Going by the attrition rate over the last eight years, 200 teachers voluntarily leaving the profession in a span of four months is more than the number of teachers who have resigned annually in any of the last eight years. Statistics Lyonchoen shared with the media show that around 200 teachers had resigned in 2016. In 2015, 142 teachers tendered their resignations.

“We already have 200 teachers resigning this year out of 8,562, which is about 2.4 percent of the teaching force,” the Prime Minister said, adding that except for 2015 and 2016, the general trend has been more or less stable.

Should the government be concerned? “Yes and no,” said Lyonchoen. He said the country should be concerned because every trained teacher leaving is a loss to the education system. But the government is also not be worried for several reasons.  “No, because if you look at the media as a percentage there are more people resigning voluntarily than teachers in terms of percentage,” he said.

He added that when you look at absolute numbers, 200 might look like a lot but as a percentage, it’s only two percent.

“This year is going to be a lot more so we are a bit concerned but again it’s a cause of concern in absolute numbers but in terms of percentage it seems quite normal throughout the civil service,” the Prime Minister said. “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.”

Lyonchoen said that the resignation of teachers also opens up opportunities for 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.

Places like Australia, Lyonchoen said has become an attractive destination for the Bhutanese to study and work. “If most of our teachers go to Australia to study, this is good for Bhutan, it adds to our human resource,” the Prime Minister said.

Lyonchoen said that the government is concerned with the overall welfare of teachers and the education blueprint was put in place to focus on a policy to attract and retain the best teachers.

The government has also implemented the policy measures to improve the working environment of teachers, he said. The introduction of central and autonomous schools, which enjoy autonomy to improve the working conditions and motivate teachers, is one such policy, Lyonchoen said. “The quality of the education will be improved through teachers who are better motivated and inspired to do their job.”

The government has also stepped up teacher professional development by increasing the budget for teacher development to Nu 106 million (M) last year from Nu 6M. The Prime Minister also said that the teacher workload has been another area of issue affecting the quality of education. Lyonchoen said that the government after reducing teaching hours from 22  to 18 hours a week is working on further reducing it to 14 hours a week. “In addition to that, a teacher can teach only one subject rather than having a overworked teacher dealing with multiple subjects,” Lyonchoen said.

The ministry is also supporting teachers in reducing teacher workload by recruiting support staff. Lyonchoen said that recently the ministry recruited wardens, matrons, and counsellors to enable teachers to just focus on teaching to improve the morale and capacity of teachers.

“Looking at the attrition rate is one thing but there is a more holistic approach to it and we hope that our efforts, which are quite comprehensive will help improve the quality of teachers and help retain our teachers in the future,” Lyonchoen said.

Tempa Wangdi