Friday, 15 August 2008

Bhutan : Teacher’s allowance given new lease of life

14 August, 2008 - The government’s recent proposal to revise civil service salaries and the efforts to recruit and retain teachers has reenergised the debate over the old compensation and allowance packages.

Many teachers continue to ask whether the teaching allowance, which was discussed extensively during the 87th Assembly session in 2007, would ever be reinstated.

The education ministry had proposed a set of financial incentives to attract, motivate and retain teachers to address the teacher shortage after the 30 to 45 percent allowance for teachers was withdrawn during the pay revision in 2005.

The teachers’ allowance was also highlighted in the last annual education conference, when teachers from all twenty dzongkhags asked education ministry officials to expedite the implementation of the Assembly resolution.

“It’s demoralising to see that the teacher’s scarcity allowance, which the government has been working on, hasn’t come through,” said the Principal of Paga community school, Pem Kinley.

Another teacher in Punakha said teachers have been expecting the compensation since July 2007.

But education officials said the National Assembly had only directed the ministry to propose a package of incentives for teachers. The ministry has submitted the proposal to the pay commission and it is yet to be considered.

Education minister, Lyonpo Powdyel, said that the ministry had proposed that the commission consider teaching as a scarce profession, where only a few people wished to be teachers and to consider other factors, such as location and difficulties faced by teachers.

“Given the dire difficulties in attracting, recruiting and retaining good teachers in the system, it’s absolutely necessary that teachers be compensated adequately for the work they do in educating our children,” he said.

About 33 rural schools reported last year that they had only one teacher and the education ministry recruited about 220 teachers to fill the gap for this year alone.

The education minister said that teaching, as a profession, has to be looked at very differently from other jobs. “Teaching is a full time job in the sense that there’s hardly a difference between the public and private life of a teacher,” he said.

Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyel said the previous teaching allowance was timely and a critical intervention, that helped the education ministry acknowledge the difficulties inherent in teaching.

Asked why the incentive was delayed, he said most of the members of the erstwhile cabinet resigned to join politics and the caretaker government did not have the necessary policy framework to consider the request. “We took up the case as soon as the new government was formed and the government has asked the ministry to work out a package of incentives and compensation for teachers,” he said.

By Phuntsho Choden

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