It’s the same old story again. Teaching, the so-called “noble” profession does not have many takers in Bhutan with most university graduates placing the vocation last in their list of preferences.
Almost every teacher agrees that there is a huge incentive mismatch with the work load they have.
“We don’t get enough time to spend with our families; we have to engage ourselves in prepararing lesson plans and correcting assignments and note-books of students”, said a teacher of Khuruthang Middle Secondary School, Punakha, adding that teachers have to co-ordinate co-curricular activities which is an extra responsibility.
According to the Policy and Planning Division chief, Dechen Zam of the education ministry, teaching cannot wait unlike other jobs as teachers are responsible for shaping the future of many children. “The ministry is aware of how tough the work of a teacher is and we did try to give extra incentives but did not succeed because the present government does not have enough budget,” she said.
In some cases, teachers are transferred to the wrong places. For instance, some teachers who were trained as Maths or IT teachers were placed in some lower secondary schools where their IT skills are left unused while in some schools there is shortage of teachers belonging to the same field.
All the teachers are supposed to serve a minimum of three years in a remote school as per the education policy. But the Human Resource Development Division chief, Sonam Wangyel at the ministry, explained that some teachers are exempted from remote transfers based on health reasons. “Nearing of superannuation and marital cases are the reasons why some of the teachers are allowed to stay in schools in towns like Thimphu, Paro and Phuentsholing,” he added.
However, some teachers beg to disagree.
“Those who have power, money or links in the education ministry are always placed in schools in towns,” said a teacher in Trashigang.
Teachers also feel that they are not provided enough training opportunities for their professional development abroad unlike other civil servants who get to go out for trainings repeatedly.
According to Dechen Zam, teachers are sent for trainings but in limited numbers. “Even for the in-country trainings, we have to know if they really gained anything from the training and consider the expenses we have to bear during the session”, she said, “This is all due to the large number of teachers we have in the country.”
Apart from these, teachers are blamed whenever the students’ results are not up to expectations. “Teachers are the object of blame from the public, ministry, parents, and proprietors if in private schools”, said a private school teacher who did not want to be named. “We are paid less; we don’t have job security and meetings are not valued which results in failure of smooth administrative functioning”.
However, shortage of teachers still exists and the number of people who prefer to go for teaching is diminishing by the moment. “There is huge shortage of primary teachers and teachers who can teach Maths and Science in classes XI and XII,” said Sonam Wangyel, adding that there are adequate teachers in other subjects. “We have shortages in context of certain subjects”.
People are concerned about the impact on the education system because of the existing large numbers of unhappy teachers. “Teachers are one of the most important contributors in building our nation and if the nation builders are not happy, then everything will collapse”, said Pema Longdhen, a student in Sherubtse College.
A teacher in Samdrup Jongkhar said that unhappy teachers cannot motivate their students in learning, as a result the students fail to learn more.