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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Ministerial Impulse to Investigate Teachers’ Workload

The wick of hard work and commitment of our teachers against all odds have helped the Kingdom realize healthy Net Primary Enrolment and Millennium Development Goals of achieving the Universal Primary Education. Their persistent perseverance have secured our children to perpetually endow education with the standards of an international parity and of course to mature with the skills and confidence necessary to survive in the 21st century mode of living.
Understanding the significant role played by the teachers in investing the future of a nation, the new Education Minister has commissioned a team to study the teacher workload. This study is timely that it has taken place amidst the period of unrelenting societal hue and cry on the decline of quality of education which has still been not fully pacified.  
One as a parent also need to share equal dividend of worry because none of us would prefer to allow our children being taught by someone who is disproportionately exhausted, drained and burdened to perform the duties satisfactorily.
The studies of similar kind has already been introduced in educationally advanced nations like the United Kingdom and New Zealand since 1994 and 2005 respectively. Since then, such robust educational endeavor had been an annual event in the UK owing to its significant impact in stimulating quality teaching-learning process. The findings generated from the study suggested that majority of teachers quit teaching predominantly because of an insurmountable workload they need to endure. In New Zealand, bizarrely almost 60% of the teachers committed to quit teaching when greener opportunities arise, for the reason that they need to shoulder hefty workload. Due to this reasons, teacher attrition is considered very seriously in such nations because failing to consider one would mean witnessing the exodus from teaching profession as more of a ritualistic episode.          
Nevertheless in any essence, when we debate about ‘workload’ of any profession, a comprehensive understanding on its delineation has to be gathered. Or else, without having the definition of workload clearly defined, it would be sophisticated to measure and calibrate the precise intensity of workload shouldered by the individual. With respect to teaching in particular, those factors and assorted managerial duties that interrupts teachers to accomplish systematic teaching-learning process can be considered as ‘unnecessary’ workload.
While planning and preparation of lessons or assessments of students’ progress are some fundamental professional duties of a teacher, at times, an imperative of maintaining every details of the lesson that one teach becomes only as a feast to amuse those educational inspectors rather than making positive impact on student learning and outcomes. Because lesson planning and its organization largely depends on the level of teaching experience, understanding of the curriculum and materials or the strategies, imposing a rigid figure or design in making a lesson often becomes a punitive pedagogic taxation, and hence augment the workload.  
On a similar note, if one understands that educating our own child is a shared responsibility of both parents and teacher, then parents assisting their child to follow-up the written feedbacks by the teachers in their notebooks can largely ease the friction of teachers’ workload. This mostly doesn’t take place in our kind of situation because we are victimized with a myth that educating our child is completely a teacher’s work. 
The lion’s share of teachers’ time in the school is spent on assessing student progress using the strategies and materials present at one’s disposal. So those tasks that necessarily doesn’t raise the academic standards of pupil should be reduced or completely erased if at all possible from making the teachers to do it. A specific person can be employed to carry out those assorted activities like games and culture, scouting and mask dances, or any co-curricular activities so as to enrich the much espoused Quality Wholesome Education, while retaining only teaching to the teachers.
While the feasibility of such provisions is practically arguable, instituting one can certainly help in raising the standards of the students at least academically.
Nevertheless, with the institution of a task force by His Excellency comprising those celebrated Bhutanese scholars, we sincerely wish that their investigation will shed some practical insights and solutions to address the complex issues of unnecessary teacher workload. Or least, we anticipate those recommendations and changes to inhale some oxygen of reality, genuineness, credibility and pragmatism.
I sincerely wish the team a 'Good Luck".
“A teacher takes a hand, open a mind and touches the heart”- Anonymous


  1. Heavy workload, attrition and occupational stress among Bhutanese teachers have long been studied and repeatedly appeared in literature. Recommendations were suggested but no adequate attention was given. We hope the newly formed team of the Ministry will come with a breakthrough.

    Good post Dumcho!

    1. Could not agree more sir. At least for this time, hope those recommendations come to a full life, not only papers.

  2. A very insightful thought, Sir. I fully agree with you especially with regard to the role parents can also play in educating their children. This was one of the main highlights of the new Sherig Lyonpo when he met us some weeks ago. I am glad that he appears more energetic and impulsive to reform the education system. Let's wait and see what happens.

    1. With this ambitious project, we anticipate that the findings revealed are practically put into use rather than being stored as decorative piece of recommendations in almost every Sherig related books.



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