A call to address teacher shortage

Despite concerted efforts to revamp the education sector following the 2021 Royal Decree on education reform, Bhutan continues to grapple with a persistent challenge: teacher shortages. This issue threatens the quality of education provided to our children and demands immediate attention.

In the past year alone, a significant number of teachers—371 in 2021 and 478 in 2022—have left the profession, exacerbating the shortage crisis. Rural schools bear the brunt of this problem, with vacancies outnumbering applicants. Latest reports claim that in Dagana dzongkhag alone there is a shortage of 53 teachers, with only a fraction of vacancies filled despite efforts to recruit.

The shortage is further compounded by the reluctance of experienced teachers to transfer to remote areas, leaving predominantly new recruits who often seek transfers after completing their mandated service. This cycle perpetuates the shortage, particularly in rural regions.

To address this pressing issue, innovative strategies such as school consolidation have been proposed. By merging smaller schools with low enrollment, we can optimize teacher allocation and alleviate shortages. Additionally, there’s a call to bypass traditional recruitment processes for trained teachers from colleges, streamlining the system to expedite resolution.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Education and Skill Development’s initiative to re-register experienced teachers who voluntarily resigned aims to mitigate the shortage. Welcoming back these professionals is not only a pragmatic solution but also ensures continuity and quality in education delivery.

However, addressing teacher shortages requires a multifaceted approach. While welcoming returning teachers is a step in the right direction, we must also address underlying factors contributing to attrition, including economic concerns and opportunities abroad. Fixing our economy and creating enticing opportunities domestically are paramount to retaining talent.

Moreover, we must acknowledge the sacrifices made by Bhutanese professionals who sought opportunities abroad. Many yearn to return home but face challenges such as financial obligations. Providing avenues for their return, coupled with respectful treatment and recognition of their experiences abroad, can enrich our education system.

Moving forward, it’s imperative to embrace returning teachers and leverage their diverse experiences to enhance our educational landscape. By fostering a supportive environment and prioritizing the well-being of our educators, we strengthen our human resource and ensure a brighter future for Bhutan’s education system.

Addressing teacher shortages requires a collaborative effort involving policymakers, educators, and the community. While welcoming back returning teachers is a positive step, long-term solutions necessitate addressing underlying economic and systemic challenges. The country must seize this opportunity to invest in our educators and build a resilient education system that serves all Bhutanese children, regardless of their location or background.

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