Vice principals (VP) nationwide have raised their concerns and disappointment over the education ministry’s (MoE) notification that sets new criteria for the VPs to apply for a promotion.

On May 5, the MoE’s human resource division issued a notification stating that the criteria set for principals and VPs were in accordance with the decision of 313th Human Resource Committee (HRC). The notification set six criteria for VPs to be promoted from P2 to P1 level.

The first: “Vice Principal I, who are currently serving in schools having principals at ES level, can be promoted from P2 to P1.”

A VP in Wangdue said that meeting this criterion was a challenge as Bhutan only had a few principals in the ES level. “This means we’d need to get a transfer under an ES principal for us to apply for promotion and, until and unless we go where principal is in ES level, we are not entitled to promotion.” Bhutan has 10 schools with ES level principals.

MoE’s Chief Human Resource Officer (HRO), Dendhup Tshering, said that the RCSC had approved 126 schools that will be eligible for ES level promotion for principals subject to fulfilling the criteria. “There could be more schools fulfilling the eligibility for ES level principals in the near future.”

The VPs also raised their concern over the third criterion, which states that two outstanding and one very good in moderation exercises within promotion cycle was required. The VPs argued that new criteria were particularly stringent for VPs as these criteria aren’t set for principals and teachers or other civil servants.

A VP from Phuentsholing said: “All of us belong to the same category in RCSC. Why very stringent and difficult criteria for VP?”

In the notification, for principals, one of the criteria states that ‘very good’ and above rating is required in moderation exercise for recent three academic years.

A VP said that 50 percent of their (VP’s) ratings also depended on the school’s rating, which is monitored through the school performance management system. “The chances of getting an ‘outstanding’ is very less.”

He added that RCSC usually designated how many could receive the rating in each school.

Dendup Tshering said that the criteria were set because principals and VPs were given proxy ratings based on their school performance.

He added that on the other hand, teachers don’t have this privilege of getting proxy rating and most of them would fall in ‘good category’ despite achieving excellent results in their subject due to the moderation exercise. “Therefore, VPs and principals have greater possibility of getting ‘outstanding’ and ‘very good’ ratings based on the school performance while the teachers cannot.”

Many VPs have expressed their intent to step down to a teacher. A VP said that with the criteria, it was easier for teachers in P2 level to be promoted to P1 level. “With the new criteria, it means we will be a lifelong VP.”

Dendhup Tshering said that in the civil service position directory, VPs could be promoted up to P2 level.

He added that if they wished to get promoted to P1, they should either be senior teacher II and then process for promotion to P1, as senior teacher I or sit for open competitive selection interview for P1 level positions. “Until the new criteria were approved by the RCSC recently, VPs could never get promotion as VP at P1 level. While allowing them to progress to P1 as VP, stringent criteria have been set as the filtering process to ensure that the system promotes deserving candidates only to a higher level.”

Dendup Tshering added that the RCSC justified that there were adequate avenues for VPs to be appointed as principal, Deputy Chief DEO/TEO, lead teacher, education monitoring officer, curriculum developer, and subject specialist on lateral entry. “They can also apply for the chief’s positions in the MoE headquarters at P1A through open competitive selection.”

The VPs wrote to MoE and the RCSC on January 23, in which they argued that since competencies and standards in Bhutan Professional Standards for Teachers (BPST) for both principals and VPs were same the positions and responsibilities deserved same treatment and promotion.

Dendup Tshering said that although VPs’ and principals’ roles were similar in nature, the degree of responsibility and accountability was higher for principals. “Moreover, VPs were not able to move beyond P2 till date. Nevertheless, this breakthrough to move from P2 to P1 was given special consideration to VPs by the RCSC based on the criteria that were found acceptable.”

According to a VP, a group of VPs also approached the secretary and the Sherig Lyonpo after hearing that VPs wouldn’t be promoted. The representatives were informed that the decision to not give promotion was to avoid having VPs and principals in the same level (P1), which could result in clashes between the two, said a VP.

“But right now there are teachers who are in P1 level. There are principals in P3 and VPs in P2 levels. There has been no issue until now and it has been running smoothly,” a VP said.

He added that the representative visiting the secretary and the lyonpo were ensured that there would be change but later on May 5 they were notified with the new stringent criteria.

The VPs suggest that as the new criteria were already endorsed the ministry do away with the superstructure.

The super structure was introduced in 2016 with the objective to place right person for the right job, retain and enhance professionalism in civil service.

Prior to the superstructure, a civil servant was allowed to change major occupational groups after 10 years.

A VP said that if the VPs couldn’t be promoted in the same field, they requested the ministry to do away with superstructure. Then they would have the opportunity to pursue their career in other categories.

Dendup Tshering said that today VPs were allowed to participate in the open competitive selection interview falling in the same superstructure at the moment. “However, the authority to allow them to move to other superstructure group rests with the RCSC.”

With closure of submission of application for promotion on May 13, the ministry has received five VP applicants for promotion.

By Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue