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Teacher attrition attracting attention

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

As I pen this down, probably many teachers around Bhutan must be contemplating the Aussie dream. Some may be waiting for their visas while a few must be boarding the Qantas on their long trip down under from Suvarnabhumi international airport and for those who are already there in the land of Kangaroos, it must be a kind of "living with the American dream". Yes, Australia seems to be the last frontier for our teachers who bow down from this profession and chase their hopes of better professional and financial growth. For many times now, teacher attrition has come to the forefront and it should ruffle some feathers of our ministry.

Courtesy: Jimmie Thinley

The recent statistics of Kuensel issue are unpalatable and with a 3.6% attrition rate, giving me a reason why we should not be fretful about this. This isn't the first time media houses have reported on the issue and when things recur at rocket speed, it certainly begs for bigger attention. It seems that the national newspaper has issued us the bitterest of awakenings in a malleable manner yet what has been done to restrain this is still a question to ponder over. Of the 263 teachers that voluntarily resigned in one last year, 90% must be at Curtin, Edith Cowan, New England or the Murdoch Universities of Australia pursuing a dream that was not possible here. Of course, let us not forget that along with the studies, earnings also come as a bonus package through the work done during off time periods (my Friends in Australia please correct me if I am wrong).

So why do the teachers leave? One obvious reason to harp on amongst the many is remuneration. Just imagine who would like to go to work at the stroke of midnight and do all the odd jobs. Our friends down under do that (again please correct me if I am wrong). Almost certainly and in most common sense, I am sure of the view that our teachers who are in Australia who do such jobs may detest the work they do yet in the end, the measure of happiness comes in form of what is being earned. It is not a wild goose chase for them. The harder you work, the more you earn. Back on a personal plane, a paltry salary barely sees you through the month. In the end, it becomes all about putting food on your table.

So when there is too less to offer at home, who will not like to drift to a place where it will keep the fire burning in your hearth. If money is not happiness, unquestionably having it keeps the feel-good factor flowing. It is commonly acknowledged that for the work that a teacher does, the dividends are not fair and square. When I point out money, it somewhat cheapens my integrity as a teacher because the general rule of thumb is that a teacher is more to give than ask but this will continue to divide debate until it is over. For me, what I earn is adequate enough to keep me going through the 30 days but it comes at the sacrifice of taking the family for dinner out, acquiring new things for the house, putting on new clothes and many more such sacrifices. The question of saving is out of the equation.

Looking at other professions sometimes scars me deeply. I sometimes seriously wanted to question anybody, why are teachers not on par with engineers and doctors? The moment medical professionals were found in acute deficiency, especially with regards to doctors and specialists, the health ministry offered a basket of offers and not to forget that the first time they join their work, a direct placement in grade seven is guaranteed.

Is this very difficult for the teachers too? Why can't we just take a leaf out of their book as well, tell me what is not challenging in educating a child who will ultimately become the doctors, engineers, architects and the great professions you name so.

Attrition is definitely a problem but it's not the only problem. In more ways than one, the education organization is always impaled and paled by a series of challenges that run amok the think tanks of our education system. Until and unless, something is not being done, this attrition looks as if it is not going to stop any time soon.

Take these views of me as a knee-jerk reaction but for now what I feel is the immediate need to arrest the downslide of teacher attrition and the best possible way, looking by the way teachers fly out to Australia seems to be the increased paycheck and that too would be a cherry on the cake if it happens in the equivalence of what has been revised for the members of Cabinet in 2014. Surely our teachers won't mind that.

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