Ferret this out: Why are our teachers leaving in droves?

In the first four months of 2017, some 200 teachers have left the profession. This is more than the total number of teachers who left the profession in the last eight years – 2.4 percent out of 8,562 strong teaching force!

This is no good news. Although the attrition rate of only 2.4 percent may be considered normal across civil service, a lot more is at stake when it comes to losing teachers. As Prime Minister said at the 30th Meet the Press session in Thimphu yesterday, the country should be concerned because every trained teacher leaving is a loss to the education system.

Whatever the absolute number or percentage tell us, what we should be really concerned about is losing seasoned teachers who have many years of experience under their belt. Replacing them will be more than just challenging. It may be fundamental right of every Bhutanese to choose where to go and where to work. 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.

It is not for no reason that we call teaching a noble profession and sherig our noble sector.

Prime Minister said 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. What about student-teacher ratio? While the education policy says that a teacher should teach a class of 24 students, it has been found that our teachers teach classes of between 35 and 50 students. What about benefits they enjoy, meagre pay besides?

Our teacher morale will suffer if we do not make teaching an attractive profession, which is leading to teachers leaving the profession. It is worrying when teachers, especially the seasoned ones, are leaving the classrooms for better prospects elsewhere.

For education to succeed, we must look first at the teachers. How do we keep them in the field?