Only one of the seven slots for English teachers was filled last month

Education: To address the acute English teacher shortage in monastic schools, vacancies for six contract teachers that went unfilled last month, will be re-announced.

Education officials said that they are waiting for the finance ministry to approve the budget for the six slots after which the vacancies will be announced.

With trained Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) graduates not willing to take up the job, the education ministry plans to recruit graduates on contract to teach monks in monastic schools. “We will announce the vacancies as soon as the ministry approves the budget,” human resource officer Tshering Choden said.

The budget for six teachers amounts to about Nu 2.59 million for a two-year contract, education officials said. The contract teachers would be entitled to Nu 18,000 a month including teaching allowance in line with the Bhutan Civil Service Regulations.

Last month, the education ministry announced vacancies for 290 B.Ed graduates on contract of which seven were for monastic schools. Of the seven slots, only one applied while the rest went unfilled. The seven contract teachers were to be employed for shedras and lobdras such as Tango and Richenling Thorim Shedras, Dechenphodrang Zherim Lobdra and Walakha Anin Thorim Shedra. For Thorim Shedras, secondary B.Ed graduates were to be sent while primary B.Ed were to be deployed in Zherim Lobdras.

Given such issues, dratshang officials said institutionalisation through the appointment of regular teachers instead of contract teachers was the only way forward which they said would ensure quality, consistency and continuity of English teachers in monastic schools.

Besides, the concept of employing contract teachers in monastic schools was a tried and tested practice. About four years ago, the dratshang lhuentshog with support from UNICEF recruited graduates on contract to teach English in monastic schools. However, the result was not satisfactory as many of them used the platform as a transition.

On the issues in appointing regular teachers, Tshering Choden said the dratshang wanted contract teachers. “We are just facilitating based on their demand,” she said.

Monastic schools across the country require about 70 to 80 English teachers. However, the immediate requirement is in about 25 monastic schools of which the dratshang has prioritised seven schools where there are many monk students.

In the rest of the monastic schools, monks who have attended formal schools and know English teach the subject in absence of qualified teachers. There are about 50 such monks across the country today who are paid a nominal salary for their service.

With more than two third of the monks and nuns being less than 35 years old, the monk body comprises a young population. Religious personnel said that even if half of them opt for modern education, it would only add on to the existing issues in the education sector such as infrastructure and teacher shortage, among others.

Bhutan being signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, religious personnel said that all young nuns and monks are equally deserving of the same rights like any other youth who attend formal schools.

The annual education statistics of the education ministry estimates more than 5,000 nuns and monks in 388 monastic schools and three nunneries under the central monastic body. An equal number of monks and nuns are also estimated to be enrolled in private monastic schools. The private dratshangs are not registered with the central monastic body.

Kinga Dema