We have always had shortage of teachers. The situation may be improving going by the numbers but the improvement is nowhere near satisfactory. Shortage of 400 teachers is a lot still. We need to do more. Education Minister Norbu Wangchuk said that teacher shortage was a trend and remains a challenge. Recognising that addressing the problem of teacher shortage is a challenge is a good beginning. But that’s not enough. Leaving the matter to rest is complacency. There must be a concerted effort from the ministry to find a sustainable solution.

If the ministry doesn’t agree with the views held by the media and the public, it must know that silence is not an answer. Quiet condemnation and mockery of public concerns are scarcely helpful to anybody – certainly not the ministry. We hope that the education ministry will give the nation detailed, convincing, and practical solutions to address the problem of teacher shortage in the country soon. It is an obligation the ministry has to fulfil.

We are told that increasing teacher intake is being looked at as one of the measures to address the shortage. Well, that looks like a sensible way to tackle the problem. Let there be more teacher intake so. It has been found that mostly schools outside urban centres are facing teacher shortage. What we can see here is that rural placement or transfer is not popular among teachers. If they are posted far away from urban centres our teachers see resignation as easy option. In less than six months this year, 120 teachers quit. How to make rural transfer attractive so is where ministry’s focus ought to be.

Of the 340 teachers who have left the school system between February and July this year, 23.3 percent are on EOL, 26.8 percent resigned voluntarily, 30.6 percent is on study leave, 1.5 percent is transferred to different agencies, 9.7 percent is selected for different positions, 1.8 percent expired, 7.1 percent superannuated, and 2.4 percent is on deputation. Now if History is also taught in Dzongkha, teacher shortage will be felt more acutely. Already the shortage of Dzongkha teachers is the biggest problem facing the ministry. Making ‘general’ teachers fill the void will have serious impact on the quality of education. This must not happen in our schools.

According to figures available, 101 teachers are on study leave and 175 teachers on maternity leave. While this has contributed largely to the shortage of teachers in schools, the education minister said that teachers leaving for studies was not new and that every time a teacher resigns in the middle of the year, the ministry gets replacement on contract. We find this arrangement vastly inadequate. Replacing the teacher shortage with contract teachers is ministry copping out. Such measure will have direct impact on quality of instruction and education.