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Investing more in our teachers

Teaching may be the noblest profession of all, but it’s certainly not a piece of cake.

It is not easy for a teacher to exercise patience when students cut classes despite repeated advices and counseling. It is not easy when parents, without hesitation, spout unwarranted vitriol conveniently imputing to the teachers their child’s carelessness and even behavior difficulties.

It is not easy when a teacher has to adjust to the mood swings of fifty odd students in a classroom and still work to sharpen the most jaded appetite and inspire them to learn. It is not easy when our institutions fail to recognise the importance due to the profession and a pervasive feeling of isolation grips our teaching cadre. It is not at all easy to be a teacher in our country, and acknowledging it is a good first step toward achieving quality education.

We expect a lot from people in the teaching profession we tepidly regard as ‘lopen’ – from teaching well to being a part of a team to solve a host of youth problems ranging from substance abuse to teenage pregnancy. But are we doing enough for the teachers that is commensurate with these expectations? Going by the tenor of debate in the social media, it appears we are not. It seems it is often the teachers themselves who have to push for action even on issues that, on a merit basis, qualify for a systematic response from the ministry. Most expressions within the profession agree that their importance is undermined. I commiserate with them.

Many do not to opt for the profession as a personal choice. And those that are already in it appear to be in a seething cauldron of frustration. Good teachers are costly but bad, frustrated ones cost more. If we are serious about building world-class education, then we have to put money where our mouth is and start investing more in our teachers, too.

We will have to invest more to produce the best teachers that we want in our schools. We will need to invest more to attract the best minds to the profession. We will have to invest more to retain those that are already in the profession and to ensure the educators are educated, too. It is a proven strategy that has delivered results worldwide and we should seek ways to adopt it.

The entrepreneurial oomph of the Bhutanese people depends on the kind the teachers we have in our schools and how we prepare them to take on the challenges. Every additional investment will better equip our teachers to handle all our educational challenges of today and in the future. As a citizen, I strongly feel we need to pay our teachers more than the average salary in the country. It makes sense because it concerns a workforce in whose hands we entrust the future of our children and the future workforce of our nation.

But if we are bent on driving a hard bargain on this and continue to make token gestures every now and then, then we are only being penny-wise and pound-foolish. It’s about time we treat our teachers as professionals and accord them the due importance.

That being said, we also need to balance the equation by demanding high standards of performance and more accountability through a performance-based culture. We cannot afford to tinker around the edges and accept a tolerance for mediocrity in this profession. It is a profession that in the absence of a strong sense of vocation, passion and moral obligation on the part of those who are into it could spell disaster. It is only through a combination of good remuneration and a performance-based culture that we can midwife the much-needed prestige to this profession.

On this day, as a tribute to those selfless teachers who have dedicated their lives to educating our children, I salute them. It is only through their sheer grit and determination that the prospect of a stronger and more prosperous Bhutan looks promising than ever before. And if we have many more who take such wisdom to heart, we will surely see Bhutan become what we all want it to become. I urge every parent and student to resolve to pitch in to keep our teachers hopeful when they are strained and encouraged when they are struggling. That way, we will contribute to keeping them motivated. But more importantly, we need to invest more in them so that they are well prepared to educate our children for a stronger Bhutan.

Contributed by  Dorji Tshering

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