… More than 100 schools are without principals 

Yangchen C Rinzin  

Local leaders in Dagana recently called on the education ministry to place principals in its seven primary schools that were without principals for years. They proposed the ministry revise its policy on selecting principals which hindered many from qualifying for the post. 

However, many teachers said that similar issues existed across the country and where at least three or five schools in a dzongkhag do not have principals.    

Teachers said that this was because of one eligibility criteria the education ministry has set discouraged teachers from either applying for the post of principal or most teachers did not qualify. 

An applicant must have a Masters Degree, which is different from the criteria set for open competitive selection in the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations. 

The ministry’s human resource committee approved the eligibility requirement. The RCSC allows agencies to include additional eligibility criteria as desired. 

The applicant should also be currently serving as a principal, vice-principal, or education officer, and have served two years in the current position. 

Education ministry record shows that there are 119 schools without principals across dzongkhags today. Most of them are primary schools. There are 369 schools with full-fledged principals. 

Most of these schools are managed either by vice principals or teachers as officiating principals, who are identified and appointed by the dzongkhag administration as an interim measure. 

Many teachers said that without a full-fledged principal, it often created issues and gaps in implementing school activities and hampered decision-making.

A teacher in Chukha said that this criterion, the need for a MA degree, has done more harm than good because they could not apply for the position, even if they were interested. “Which is not required in other agencies even if one wants to apply for the position of a chief,” he said. 

Teachers said that the eligibility criterion was unfair and that with changing times the ministry should review and scrap it. 

A teacher from Pemgatshel said that more than the MA degree, the leadership quality of the person was more important. 

In the ministry’s recent announcement of vacancies for principals in 28 schools, only 10 were recruited. There were no applicants at all despite the posts were renounced. 

The ministry is going to announce the vacancies soon to recruit for the next academic year. 

Another teacher from Trashigang who has served as a teacher in charge for more than five years said that they have to manage the class as well as administrative tasks, which sometimes disrupts teaching. 

“Sometimes we can’t even make a decision even when we want to because we’re not full-fledged principal,” he said. 

Some schools with less than 100 students, according to the ministry’s interim policy guideline, don’t qualify for a principal. Such schools are managed by officiating principals or teachers in charge.   

Some teachers said that those teachers in charge or officiating principals have performed better than full-fledged principals. “They should be recognised and give various incentives to retain them.”

“This shows they’ve leadership quality and the system should invest in retaining them,” a dzongkhag education officer said. 

Some teachers said that the MA degree criterion was important since some teachers choose a principal position as a stepping stone to pursue Masters. “This creates a vacuum again,” a teacher in Zhemgang said. “It’s better to go for the MA degree before they become principal and not once they assume the post.” 

Meanwhile, the education ministry’s chief human resource officer, Dhendup Tshering said that inadequate applicants in the recent announcement were not because of the criteria. 

“The location of schools is one of the main reasons that the applicants consider in submitting their applications,” he said. “Almost all the applicants prefer their placement in urban schools.” 

Dhendup Tshering said that the criterion was important since the ministry initiated the introduction of M.Ed in Educational Leadership and Management at Paro College of Education. 

“The government continues to support the funding for this programme recognising the importance of education leaders to upgrade their qualification and become a dynamic leader,” he said. 

He said currently, principals are not appointed in schools that have less than 100 students because the ministry was of the view that these are small schools and can be managed by one of the competent teachers.

However, the ministry is currently reviewing the need for a full-fledged principal in all schools irrespective of the student number vis-à-vis school policy to provide strategic direction and desired leadership in the schools.

Edited by Tshering Palden