… of having to serve under a principal in specialist category to consider promotion

KP Sharma

That school vice principals at P2 level (VP) should have served under a principal at the specialist level to be considered for promotion has not gone well with VPs, with some challenging the condition.

A notification issued by the erstwhile education ministry on May 5, 2021, has six criteria set for VP’s promotion from P2 to P1. One of them is the requirement of having served under a “specialist principal”.

VPs, however, argue that their promotion should be evaluated based on their own merits, qualifications and performance, rather than being dependent on the specialisation of their supervisors.

According to the VPs, the requirement unintentionally hampers their professional growth and development.

“The system’s limitation to promote only those who serve under specialist principals discourages VPs from seeking diverse experiences and opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills,” said a VP in Thimphu. “The system fails to acknowledge the potential of VPs to excel and make valuable contributions in various educational contexts and leadership roles.”

The VP argued that the capability to serve effectively in their position should not be tied to the expertise of the principal they work with. “While a specialist principal may bring a wealth of knowledge in a particular subject area, it does not necessarily reflect their leadership skills or their ability to mentor and guide VP,” he added.

He said that this criterion in practice leads to a situation where a VP’s chances of promotion are influenced by external factors.

A VP in Wangdue said that the criterion places excessive significance on the qualification of  the principal, which is illogical. As a result, he added that it could develop a sense of unfairness and frustration among the VPs who excel in their roles but are impeded by the unavailability of a specialist principal in their school or district. “Given this condition, all VPs would want their boss to be a specialist or work in schools that have one.”

To address the issue, a VP in Paro said that the ministry should contemplate alternatives such as deploying specialist principals to schools with VPs in P2 to ensure equitable opportunities or eliminating the requirement entirely and substituting it with a competency-based framework for principal assessment.

These measures, he said, would promote fairness, equity, and a more merit-based promotion process. “How can the absence of a principal at the specialist level hinder the growth of a highly skilled VP who has demonstrated exceptional leadership abilities and achieved commendable results in their school?”

VPs want to know if the ministry has concrete evidence or findings that indicate that VPs serving under specialist principals perform significantly better than VPs working under other principals.

In the absence of such evidence, VPs said that the imposition of this specific promotion criterion raises questions, adding that it is important for the ministry to furnish data or research showcasing the correlation between specialist principals and the improved performance of VPs. 

This, they said, would foster transparency and trust in the promotion process, ensuring that all VPs have equal opportunities to advance in their careers based on their own capabilities and achievements.

A VP in Chukha said that if the ministry does not review the existing criteria,  teachers would understand the potential consequences of expressing interest in becoming VP. He added that they should be aware that their chances of advancement might be hindered if they are not fortunate enough to work under a specialist principal.

 It is learnt that some VPs had already stepped down to a teacher.

 The Chief Human Resource Officer of MoESD, Nima Damdul,  acknowledged the concern with the promotion criteria of the VPs. He said that the existing criteria may have hindered the promotion of hardworking individuals as a result of not having served under the supervisors at the required level.

The ministry, he said, is reviewing the promotion criteria in collaboration with various stakeholders. “We have formed a working committee comprising individuals such as principals and DEOs to assess the existing promotion criteria.”

 The ministry expects to finalise and submit the review report to the Royal Civil Service Commission for approval and feedback in the next few months.

 As per the ministry’s official record, there are about 160 VPs at the P2 level serving across the country. However, it has only about 20 principals at the specialist level.