Reports of teacher shortage in Sertena and Bebji come at a time when the education ministry is already tasked with a systematic reform in the education system.

The call for reform is from teaching to teachers to the curriculum. Any reform will not succeed if schools do not have adequate numbers of teachers to teach students.

Education officials have reasoned the delayed Bhutan Civil Service Examination (BCSE) because of the Covid-19 pandemic for the teacher shortage this time but many of us know the issue persisted for decades.

There are stories of how science students, affected by the shortage of Chemistry, Biology, Physics or Mathematics teacher could not avail their much-coveted scholarship. Many of us know how a shortage of teachers impacted our lives.

When the first five-year plan was launched in 1961, education was accorded the highest priority as the engine of growth to meet the country’s social, cultural and economic goals. Six decades later, we are still complaining of a lack of quality education. We cannot expect quality education when students do not have access to basic education needs. Without trained and passionate teachers, children will never have a good foundation.

When there is no equitable distribution of teachers, we will never have an efficient and successful education system that prepares future citizens to thrive in a competitive world.

We cannot expect students, who studied in multi-grade classes and were assessed without a formal teacher teaching him or her for years, to write a perfect application. Only quality education will produce competent and skilful citizens.

Researches have shown that lack of sufficient and qualified teachers threaten students’ ability to learn. Our remote schools are also often neglected. There is also no adequate infrastructure.

It’s also mostly students from rural and economically disadvantaged families that are most impacted by the inequitable distribution of teachers.

We have to appreciate the lone teacher in Sertena, who sought help from his wife, a class 12 graduate, and the school sweeper to teach students. We also have to thank the non-formal education instructor and early childhood care and development (ECCD) facilitator in Bebji for taking up the additional responsibility. The Haa dzongkhag education sector made the arrangement and did not leave the school without teachers. Many other schools and teachers must be making similar arrangements.

We also have a history of changing policies and blueprints of education with the change in the government every five years. We never had a real education policy or what was there was never implemented.

If we are serious about education reform this time, it is time the government, education ministry and the Royal Civil Service Commission come together to solve the teacher shortage issue once and for all. We do not want to hear that RCSC only approves 50 percent of the teacher requirement the education ministry submits.

We should not talk of deteriorating quality education when students come to school only to have a free meal and nothing to learn.