High numbers of teacher resignations leaves existing teachers under huge pressure

Some teachers are suffering from mental health issues due to the workload

The education sector in Bhutan is facing a significant decrease in the number of teachers as an alarming number of teachers have put forward their resignations. According to the latest data from the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC),  488 teachers resigned and 146 teachers are on Extra Ordinary Leave from January to 25 May. Education Management and Administration services who are mainly principals and vice principals saw 13 resignations.

The increasing number of resignations has contributed to the growing pressure on teachers to teach subjects that lie outside their field of expertise. This situation not only places immense pressure on the teachers but also compromises the quality of education provided to students.

ICT

A general teacher from one of the schools in Dagana said, “I and a senior teacher have been teaching ICT for classes VII-X though we are supposed to teach other subjects at the primary level. However, both of us are comfortable as we have been teaching for more than a year now.” The earlier ICT teacher had resigned to go to Australia, opening up a vacany for a specialized teacher in the school.

While they are committed to teaching the extra subjects with enthusiasm, delivering quality of education to children could be compromised, as the assigned teachers do not have expertise in ICT.

Primary School

A primary school in Thimphu has experienced a series of resignations from teachers this year, with approximately 10 resignations and two more in the queue. However, despite these resignations, the school management has managed to ensure timely replacements for most of the vacancies, with only one position currently awaiting a suitable candidate. The principal of the school emphasized that, unlike secondary and higher schools, they have not faced a severe shortage of teachers so far, as the existing teachers are responsible for teaching all subjects up to Class 6, excluding Dzongkha.

Mongar

The Chief Dzongkhag Education Officer (DEO) of Mongar said, “There is currently no severe shortage of teachers in the dzongkhag, however, there are potential challenges with time. The implementation of substitute teachers and extended classroom programs has mitigated the impact so far”. He acknowledged that teachers are in the process of applying for their visas and those upcoming visa applications and resignations could lead to a shortage of teachers shortly.

The Chief DEO emphasized that, at present, no additional subjects have been assigned to teachers beyond their field of expertise. He said that teachers responsible for classes pre-primary to 6 should be comfortable teaching all subjects except Dzongkha. In case, where a few teachers resign, the remaining teachers will be assigned to fill the gaps, provided they possess the confidence and comfort to teach the required subjects.

He said the arising issue might be sorted after the Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) graduates from Samtse College of Education graduate this July. These trained graduates are expected to enter the education sector and help improve the shortage of teachers.

Commerce

One of the prominent High schools in Thimphu is facing an acute shortage of teachers. One of the teachers in the school said, “There are around 12 sections of commerce and teachers teaching accounts and business is only two of us”. He also said that the subjects are taught by combining the classes.

He also said that they are assigned other responsibilities due to the shortage of the teacher in school such as class teachers, coordinators, and Head of Departments. He also said that substitute teachers are being placed, however, the substitutes are not so confident and need guidance which becomes an extra burden on them.

Dzongkha teachers burdened

Other Dzongkha teachers said, there is no shortage in the Dzongkha department, however, they are overburdened with the extra responsibilities as there are limited numbers of teachers and those who are present in schools are being overburdened with additional roles apart from teaching and existing responsibilities.

Growing hours and stress

A teacher from one of the schools in the southern dzongkhag said that a senior teacher takes 3 classes and gives the contract teacher 4 classes. They give classes like Pre-primary to new contract teachers who are neither experienced nor trained. Contract teachers usually join in the middle of the year and the system expects their contributions to be equal to that of experienced teachers. The teacher shared that teachers are suffering from mental health issues due to the work pressure.

The teacher shared, “We need to work for almost 10 hours with additional tasks, such as the Teacher on Duty needs to ring the regular bell due to the absence of supporting staff and during the grading time, we are usually graded as need improvement”. The teacher is currently going through anxiety due to a lot of factors apart from what the teacher shared, such as lack of flexibility, understanding, and support, and is not allowed to resign until the contract term ends due to an extreme shortage of teachers for replacement. The teacher is more concerned as the grade ‘needs improvement’ is reflected in the Zhiyog recruitment system and is worried about the chances of getting shortlisted anywhere with such grades in the future.

The teacher added, given the chance, teachers will definitely put their fortunes and go abroad, as there is at least appreciation. She said besides giving the best with utmost dedication, the teachers are hardly appreciated and pressure keeps adding up on the existing teachers.

Quality suffering

One of the teachers from Sarpang said that many teachers are resigning and leaving and few are on maternal leave which creates a vacuum in teaching. “We are at times assigned additional subjects to fill the gap due to the shortage of teachers,” he said.  “I have been teaching Economics and Geography for a few years now, and unlike before the number of teaching hours and classes have risen due to limited teachers,” he added. The teacher said that the burden is felt and with extra hours of teaching they are further triggered with the additional tasks and assessment works.

To address the teacher shortage, concerned authorities, and schools are resorting to assigning additional subjects to teachers, attempting to fill the gap left by resignations and absences. While this may seem like a temporary solution, it places a heavy burden on the already stretched teachers. Not only are they required to prepare and deliver lessons for subjects outside their expertise, but they also have to manage the associated assessment works and administrative tasks.

This shortage of teachers has far-reaching consequences for the quality of education provided to students. With fewer teachers available, it becomes increasingly challenging to provide individual attention and maintain a conducive learning environment in classrooms. Students may not receive the necessary guidance and support they require, impacting their academic progress and overall educational experience.

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