What about our teach­ers?

Bhutan Times - - Home - Pic­ture:http://sarah­strav­el­san­dad­ven­tures. blogspot.ca/2012/06/ teach­ers-day.html )

“Teach­ers are like can­dles, con­sum­ing them­selves to brighten the lives of oth­ers”.

Teacher’s Day is cel­e­brated in Bhutan on the Birth An­niver­sary of the Third Druk Gyalpo. Why? Bhutan un­der­went the tran­si­tion from me­dieval so­ci­ety to mod­ern na­tion state dur­ing the reign of HM Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. 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. His Majesty’s great­est tool? Ed­u­ca­tion.

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. Each and ev­ery Bhutanese to­day, has been di­rectly or in­di­rectly touched and af­fected by th­ese two events, through the gen­er­a­tions 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.

On this day, teach­ers will be fe­lic­i­tated in schools through­out Bhutan. This an­nual rit­ual, of thank­ing our teach­ers must not be limited to the day’s events, and should in­stead make us 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, and 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.

The qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion has ruled ev­ery dis­cus­sion on ed­u­ca­tion in the last decade. Sev­eral stud­ies and re­ports have been com­pleted each with pro­vid­ing a list of well-in­ten­tioned rec­om­men­da­tions. At the core of the dis­cus­sion are the 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. This is linked to two de­ter­mi­nants, the stu­dent-teacher ra­tio (STR) and the num­ber of hours/ pe­ri­ods that a teacher teaches. 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. Sim­i­larly teach­ers are limited to 22 hours of teach­ing, how­ever in re­al­ity teach­ers are work­ing far more than that. Pol­icy mak­ers fail to ob­serve the ex­tra time (be­fore and af­ter school hours) 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.

The sec­ond re­cur­rent theme re­volves around “at­tract­ing the best and the bright­est through in­cen­tives” such as en­try grade, re­mu­ner­a­tion, hous­ing, en­abling work en­vi­ron­ment etc. Ev­ery re­port on ed­u­ca­tion re­form has this rec­om­men­da­tion but in ev­ery case has re­mained a rhetoric con­fined to the pages of a re­port. There is uni­ver­sal ac­knowl­edge­ment that teach­ers lack in­cen­tives such as pro­fes­sional work­ing en­vi­ron­ment (pur­su­ing aca­demics only, teach­ing sub­jects that they are trained in, re­duced work­load, ad­e­quate teach­ing-learn­ing ma­te­ri­als, op­por­tu­ni­ties for pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment, en­hanc­ing ped­a­gogy etc.), ap­pro­pri­ate re­mu­ner­a­tion (en­try grade, salary, trans­par­ent pro­mo­tion and ca­reer en­hance­ment, re­ward and recog­ni­tion etc.) and per­sonal life (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.

Two ma­jor ini­tia­tives, “Ed­u­cat­ing for GNH” and “Ed­u­ca­tion blue­print” by two suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments, although laud­able have failed to pro­vide teach­ers with the en­v­i­ron- ment that they de­serve. As the main ar­chi­tects of build­ing all other pro­fes­sions, we can only ex­pect the best from our teach­ers. How­ever to do that, teacher wel­fare must be on the top of the ed­u­ca­tion agenda. 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.

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