Teachers voice out solutions to address attrition in Bhutan

Social sectors in Bhutan, such as health and education, have been facing the major brunt of the attrition due to the mass exodus. The decrease in the teacher and student ratio can potentially lead to the diminishing of quality education.

Dorji Tamang, a teacher from Dagana, has offered his insights on addressing teacher attrition. He suggests that a key strategy is enhancing infrastructure, stating that if the government were to provide improved facilities, resources, and technology to schools, it would not only attract students but also inspire teachers. He highlighted the inadequacies in some middle and high schools in Bhutan, where science laboratories may either be lacking or outdated, with insufficient chemicals, computers, apparatus, and other academic tools. He expresses that creating conducive environments in schools, equipped with updated resources, would bring enjoyment to both teaching and learning throughout his career until retirement.

Likewise, he also shared regarding parental involvement stating, “If government could review and update on the policy regarding parental involvement could ease the challenges faced by teachers.”

He further added, “I sense that our education system is advancing towards excellence with limited resources, ideas, and skills. I anticipate that the new government will revitalize the education system by creating a conducive environment for educators, students, and the community.”

A current PGDE candidate from Samdrupjongkhar, undergoing teacher training at Samtse, has shared insights on addressing teacher attrition. According to him, recruiting a larger number of teachers is crucial to alleviate the crises in the education system. However, the lengthy 18-month PGDE courses with insufficient stipends create a time-consuming process for teacher training, especially when compared to the instant recruitment of PGDA candidates. Despite the intensive workload during in-campus training and service provision to schools during SITP, the teacher believes that a quicker, yet effective and consolidated training approach is necessary to expedite recruitment and address attrition gaps.

The teacher expressed concerns about the perceived undermining of PGDE candidates’ capabilities in comparison to PGDA candidates, despite both passing the same exams. The workload during training tends to demotivate trainees from pursuing teaching, particularly because teaching methods take precedence over enhancing individual teacher strengths. Additionally, the teacher points out that the contextualization of teaching pedagogies with subject specifications is sometimes overlooked, leading to the dismissal of the compatibility issue. As a result, even before becoming full-fledged teachers, trainees feel the overwhelming pressure of the job.

A teacher from eastern Bhutan, Sonam, stated her concerns on the ambiguity of the efficiency of the IWP (Individual work plan) rating. She said, “This system makes it mandatory for two teachers to be allocated in the ‘need improvement’ category if the school fails to achieve pre-set ratings by the system which also compromises the academic performance of students.”

She also stated, “This is an unfair trap for those teachers who might have put tremendous effort in their teaching, and yet the students have failed due to various other factors that are not considered by the rating system.”

She further added that one such factor can be the below-average performers promoted from class X during previous years who face difficulty coping with the heavy syllabus of the preceding grade level. Another reason could be the student’s mindset that Arts subjects are scope-less which prompts them to take science by any means, thereby, suffering the conflict between their interest, forte, and the future scope of the courses.

“And some part of the blame for creating such a mindset is given to the recent reforms which many teachers are regarding”, she added.

Khagendra, a 32-year-old teacher in Thimphu, said that teachers could derive satisfaction from their profession if the government facilitates professional development opportunities. Although this is not a new issue in the education system, the new government could examine enhanced methods for delivering such programs to teachers. This would ensure that the current academic session remains uninterrupted while allowing teachers to improve their skills.

One of the teachers in Thimphu who chose to remain anonymous said, “I feel that workload is another main reason for teachers leaving the system. When workload is more, but ratings are low, appreciation is denied and promotion is delayed, who would like to continue the work?” He shared that some teachers teach more than hundreds of students single-handedly, especially the STEM subjects due to a shortage of teachers which is far removed from the standard 10 to 1 student-teacher ratio. He said, “There are cases of one or two STEM faculty teaching the subject for the whole school, thereby, the already disheartening attrition is fueling more of it.” He said that such challenges cool down the fire of passion among the teachers.

He shared about waiving off of the IWP. He shared that IWP ratings for non-academic performance create a risk for the development of the beguiling and boot-licking system, which hands over the autonomy to the leader of the school that might be misused, if not examined.

He also shared his suggestions to make learning more fun and practical for both teachers and students through cross-pollination of cultures and ideas, community-based learning, incorporating technology and hands-on practice, and reduction of theory classes which take the form of sage on stage, thereby, adding workloads for teachers.

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