Bhutanese teachers wish for equal leave provisions

To promote work-life balance and periodic rejuvenation for civil servants, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has announced the introduction of 12 days annual leave, alongside the existing leave options like 10 days casual leave, sick leave, bereavement leave etc effective from 1 July 2023 for all civil servants, except for teachers. The 30 days paid leave had been added to the pay of civil servants in 2022.

However, in a recent decision made by the Economic and Finance Committee (EFC) and the majority of Members of Parliament (MPs) they decided to increase annual leave from 12 to 21 days for civil servants.

The RCSC’s decision to grant the extended annual leave with an exception to the teachers met with disappointment from the teachers, who already face immense pressure due to the current shortage of teachers.

A teacher from one of the schools in Dagana expressed dissatisfaction, highlighting that teachers are only granted 10 days of casual leave, which is significantly less compared to the 21 days of leave enjoyed by other civil servants. Additionally, the teacher pointed out that the government has reduced summer vacation from 30 to 15 days, which places an additional burden on teachers as they are mostly engaged in correcting exam papers during their summer break. Furthermore, winter vacation has been reduced to just a month, further limiting the time for teachers to rest and have enough vacation time.

Another teacher from one of the schools in Samdrup Jongkhar shared the demanding schedule teachers have to adhere to. She said, “Unlike other civil servants who can reach by 9:00 am or later, we are required to report to school by 8:00 am sharp, with preparations beginning as early as 7:30 am”.

The teacher expressed frustration at the lack of rest time in staff room, as they constantly move from one class to another substituting classes due to limited teachers, unlike the other officials who have the luxury of staying in comfortable rotating chairs all day.

The teacher also highlighted the added pressure resulting from the shortage of teachers and increased remedial classes. With minimal free time during the day, teachers are often forced to prepare lesson plans late into the night. Consequently, the exception of additional leaves for teachers under the new policy has been considered unfair.

The concerns raised by teachers reflect their want for equitable treatment and recognition of the challenges they face within the education sector. While the decision to extend annual leave for civil servants aims to enhance overall well-being, it is crucial to address the specific needs of the teaching profession.

A teacher from one of the schools in Thimphu shared his thoughts, emphasizing the need for teachers to be granted the same leave provisions as other civil servants. The teacher stressed that teachers often have to work on Saturdays, and highlighted that a significant number of days of the month-long winter holiday is occupied by correcting board exam papers, and attending various workshops.

The teacher called for equal treatment and consideration for teachers’ workloads and responsibilities.

Providing teachers with adequate leave provisions will allow them to refresh, address personal commitments, and engage in professional development activities.

By incorporating their feedback and working collaboratively, a fair and inclusive leave policy can be planned that accommodates the specific requirements of the teaching community, ultimately resulting in a more motivated and effective education system.

Meanwhile, teachers in Bhutan are hoping for equal leave provisions in light of the recent policy changes. And few of the teachers claim that other civil servants already have 52 Saturdays as holidays, which teachers do not get, and indeed are good days of holiday for other civil servants. They feel dissatisfied that the exception granted to them undermines their work-life balance, and fails to acknowledge the additional responsibilities and pressures they encounter.

As the government continues to prioritize the well-being of civil servants, it is important to note that teachers are leaving not only due to pay but also due to workload and other factors.

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