We have been talking about teachers leaving the profession for some time now. From certain quarters of the government, we have also heard that teachers leaving the profession, in numbers we have seen, is something that we ought not to be concerned about. But we are, and we think we should be.

Last year, 345 teachers left the profession, the highest in decades. This is more than the total number of teachers who left the profession in the last eight years. According to the 2017 annual education statistics, 2,346 public school teachers have left the profession. About 3.6 percent of the teachers in public schools leave the profession every year. At least one teacher abandons the profession in Bhutan everyday.

Why are our teachers leaving? National Council’s review on the quality of education found that over 101 teachers applied for two vacant posts of programme officer in the education ministry. There must be something wrong the way their career growth is structured. Increasing workload, limited professional development, poor working conditions, and remunerations are some of the reasons that prompt our teachers to leave.

Although the attrition rate of 3.6 percent may be considered normal across the civil service, a lot more is at stake when it comes to losing teachers. The nation should be concerned because every trained teacher leaving is a loss to the education system. Losing seasoned teachers who have many years of experience under their belt is sad because replacing them will be more than just challenging. And we are talking about the education of the young custodians of our nation’s future. Playing down with this national malaise is a sickness of the most dangerous kind.

It might even be argued that teachers resigning will open opportunities for others who wish to join the system. But the argument from some quarters that the attrition rate of teachers is by much lower than other professions leaves a lot to be desired. We are told that teachers are leaving the profession not because they are unhappy with their job but for greener pastures and better opportunities in the private schools and abroad. That is exactly what needs to change in the system. Because no one factor is responsible, it might be worth our while to look at the workload and morale of our teachers. Pay may be among the main issues with our teachers when weighed against workload that they have to bear. But as one of our own eminent educationists said, our teachers will forever be paid less, because what they offer is priceless.

Our teacher morale will suffer if we do not make teaching an attractive profession. And that counts. For education to succeed, we must look first at the teachers. Reforms here and there will prove to be of little use or else.

How do we keep them in the field?