The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) in a release called for teacher welfare to be given priority. The party said two major initiatives, “Educating for GNH” and “Education blueprint” by two successive governments, although the laudable intentions have failed to provide teachers with the environment they deserve.
“It is very well to focus on curriculum, to introduce GNH in schools, to consolidate and establish central schools etc; however, without placing the teacher at the center of these reforms, the impact on educational outcomes will be limited,” said the DNT statement.
The party said that the quality of education has ruled every discussion on education in the last decade with several studies and reports providing a list of well-intentioned recommendations.
The DNT pointed out that the core of the discussion was teachers and the two recurrent themes related to their profession. The first is “heavy work load for teachers” which has a crippling effect on teacher performance.
DNT said this is linked to
two determinants, the student-teacher ratio (STR) and the number of hours/periods that a teacher teaches. According to the party while current policy recommends a ratio of 30:1 and national figures estimate a ratio of 20:1, the reality is that teachers teach more than this number in every class. There are wide variations across schools and within districts.
Where demand for admission is high (e.g. in Thimphu), the class sizes have been increased, limiting space and making it difficult for the teachers to manage. While overall ratio maybe maintained, the actual burden is felt by teachers who are in the class every day said the party.
“Similarly teachers are limited to 22 hours of teaching, however in reality they are working far more than that. Policy makers fail to observe the extra time spent by teachers in preparing lesson plans, assessing student work and participating in extracurricular activities. Most teachers sacrifice time with their family and children to ensure that other children benefit from their teaching,” said the release.
The release said that the
second recurrent theme revolves around “attracting the best and the brightest through incentives” including entry grade, remuneration, housing and enabling work environment.
DNT said that while every report on the education reform has this recommendation but in every case it has remained rhetoric confined to the pages of a report.
The party said there is universal acknowledgement that teachers lack incentives such as professional working environment such as pursuing only academics, teaching subjects they are trained in, reduced workload. The party also pointed out other shortfalls like entry grade, salary, transparent promotion and career enhancement, reward and recognition and personal sacrifices like accommodation, time with family, attending domestic work etc.
“Until and unless these issues are addressed and provided through policy implementation, the profession will fail to attract the best and the brightest,” said the party.
The party said that Teacher’s Day is celebrated in Bhutan on the Birth Anniversary of the
Third Druk Gyalpo, because Bhutan underwent a transition from a medieval society to a modern nation state during the reign of His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. It mentioned the conditions for such a transition were harsh given Bhutan’s isolation. Yet, in that short time the Third Druk Gyalpo initiated and firmly set Bhutan on the path of global integration and socio-economic progress and here His Majesty’s greatest tool was education.
DNT pointed out that two remarkable events initiated by His Majesty formed the spark that lit the light for education. The first was identifying and bringing into Bhutan skilled and dedicated expatriate teachers. The second was the
establishment of the teacher training institute in Samtse in 1968. The release said that each and every Bhutanese today, has been directly or indirectly touched and affected by these two events, through thegenerations of teachers who have dedicatedly carried the torch of sherig-yonten from Lunana in Gasa, Bara in Samtse, Lauri in Samdrup Jongkhar, Merak- Sakteng in Trashigang to Lhamoi Zingkha in Dagana.
The party emphasized that thanking teachers must not be limited to the day’s events and should instead make everyone reflect on the immense contributions of a teacher. It should stir us into understanding their work environment, their challenges of meeting every parent’s expectations and the enormous sacrifices that they make.
“We must also ask what we want for our country, how our education system must help us achieve it. How the education system and therefore, teachers, will play a key role in determining how the future of Bhutan will look. In this light, we must ask ourselves honestly, whether we are providing the right gifts to our teachers,” said the party.