Sunday, December 22, 2013

It Takes A Village and Not a ‘Syringe’ to Raise a Child

First appeared in The Raven Magazine 
 When I was in primary school at Ura in Bumthang in the early 90’s, hearing the word Lopen simply sent my heart racing. I conjectured images of getting into trouble, or having done something wrong and then, thoughts of the unbearable stick would come to mind.

As a child the word Lopen was  firmly associated with the idea of corporal punishment. I don’t think that this is anything new. For many who belong to my generation it is common knowledge that this was the modus operandi of teaching – to beat and punish children with the notion that they were “educating” and “disciplining”. It was so common and accepted that nobody ever questioned it; nobody knew whether it was effective or not. Nobody ever asked, did the children really learn? Hence nobody saw it as being wrong either. Where I went to school, the beatings and punishments were so frequent that my imagination involuntarily tied a teacher with punishment and hence instilled nothing but fear in me. In retrospect that was truly unfortunate, for I am a teacher now, and I wouldn’t consider it very flattering if my students had that image of me.

I cannot deny that some taught us well, and meant well. But I guess they didn’t know any better. Whatever the case, I remain grateful for the education I received. However, some of the teachers were so mean that they seemed better at  punishing than teaching. I remember one of them had punishment techniques that were better than his ability to teach. He even had different equipments of torture, a whipping cane that folded in two, and a piece of electric wire.

I will never forget the incident when some of my friends and I were forced to strip and dip ourselves in ice-cold water one early frosty winter morning. Bumthang winters are brutal and we were, well, just children. And our crime? Coming late to morning study. We could have died from hypothermia. Luckily we didn’t, but some suffered from cold and serious bouts of coughing, I suffered from serious stomach cramps the remaining of the day. It was a horrible and painful experience that I never wish upon any children. In those days our parents entrusted us to the teachers and the school, and it was up to them to do what they could, with us. Parents didn’t complain.

One teacher had punishment techniques that were better than his ability to teach.

Other’s haven’t been so lucky. There have been incidents when a child  succumbed to corporal punishment. A friend told me that in the late 50’s when her father went to school in Wangdiphodrang, a boy was beaten and kicked so badly in his chest that he died shortly after. The case was never reported to the police, and the teacher never lost his job. That was then, at a time when farmers not only valued free education, but felt so privileged and fortunate that their children could get a seat in one of the few schools that existed in the country. In a culture where teachers are revered as gurus, it is sad that such abuse not only existed, but was tolerated and condoned. Today, after years of research and studies conducted by child psychologists, social behavioural analysts and learning specialists, the world is learning a different way. The discussion of how children should be taught and what kind of environment is best for learning, has taken a different direction. It has taught us that there is a much better and compassionate way of educating children, and even “disciplining” them. Mine was a childhood fraught with learning by the stick. Exams and class-tests were constantly followed by the cane. Some teachers beat us for every single error that we made in our papers. But more often than not, these beatings were because of so called “disciplinary” issues. Teachers beat students simply based on what was desirable or undesirable behaviour in their eyes. Sometimes the scoldings and beatings started right from the morning assembly, upsetting our mood the whole day.

While there were about 400 children in less than a dozen schools spread across the country in the early 60s, there are now more than 200,000 children in 536 schools.

To me, teaching those days seldom went beyond chalk and a blackboard, and the teacher’s movement in the classroom rarely went beyond the front row – except maybe when he wanted to smack someone who sat at the back.

When I was in the fifth standard, I was accused of breaking into a near-by food store. I had a thousand and one reasons to prove otherwise, and I was so eager to proclaim my innocence that I couldn’t stop from talking. But as soon as I started to speak the teacher slapped me hard across my face. That shut me up, but he continued to slap me repeatedly. After a dozen or so slaps, unable to bear the humiliation and his repeated accusations that I had done it, I gave in and said I did it. It was one of the most hurtful and humiliating experiences I have experienced. It impacted my sense of self, my view of education and the world around me. I hated school and I hated teachers.  Not only was it difficult to accept a crime that I hadn’t committed, but it was even more painful to see that I had hurt my parents, who were made to feel embarrassed for what I had not done. A part of me understands that teachers sometimes deployed such punishments with good intent, after all they have to maintain the order of the school. However, I think if they stand in the shoes of the child I am sure they will realize that corporal punishment injures a child for the rest of his life and eclipses his opportunities to blossom positively.

In my view, the Teaching-learning process in those days was irritatingly dull and full of lectures by people who never seemed to follow any of the rules in life. We never got the opportunity to contribute in our own learning process. We were never taught to question; instead we were told to listen only. We were never taught to enquire and be curious, for that was doubting the teacher. We were never taught to speak up, because that was being disrespectful, bold, and disruptive.  Teachers kept on lecturing until the bell rang. We had a small one room library with few books, but we weren’t even encouraged to read or even go there. After all, they didn’t expect us to write anything new in our test answers. If we regurgitated what they taught us, that was enough – complete rote learning. The only upside to rote learning from my childhood was that I managed to by-heart all the Buddhist prayers like the Doelma and Barchoedlamsel.

For society, however, the reputation of the school remained high. Every year, the students who appeared for the board examination would bring 100% pass marks. Besides, the students also exhibited exemplary discipline and behaviour when there were visiting dignitaries. In such fashion, teachers in the olden days were victorious in upholding what they thought was the nobility of the teaching profession, without realizing that not only was it immoral, but that the children had really learned nothing. They didn’t prepare the children for the world, they prepared us to fear everything. Unfortunately, because of a lack of of what a meaningful education was, society during that time considered teaching one of the best professions and teachers were given great respect by all and sundry.

Whenever we were asked what we wanted to be in the future, more than half of us ironically, raised our hands and said our dream was to be a teacher. And this was not because we merely wanted to please our teacher, but because we envied the power they wielded, and the respect they got from society. Even at home, my friends and I would play the teacher-student game. Everyone loved being the teacher and punishing the others, clearly showing that we were learning how to love power and authority and the ability to have others obey us. They say children being told about good and bad behavior rarely has any impact because they learn more by looking and listening, and emulating the behavior of the adults. It was only when I was at Paro College of Education that I realized the journey the teaching profession has made. Today, teachers have learned better and work harder, but the irony is that society no longer seems to see that. Currently the  morale amongst teachers is pretty low. I came across many trainees expressing dissatisfaction with the profession. It also seems to be the last thing that most people want to be now. Once I happened to visit a village in Paro while gathering information for an assignment. In a soiled cow shed I saw a few children playing a teacher-student game. A girl who was enacting a teacher was holding a big stick, and pretended to beat her students when they didn’t listen to her. A friend told me that at a private primary school in Thimphu which her nephews attend, one teacher put the pencil in between the child’s tender fingers and pinched them together causing immense pain. That, for not doing  homework.

In some ways teaching children without beatings and punishment is an alien approach to our society and many who want to be “teachers” are learning/hearing  of it only now. For those who don’t care about children, yet want to be a teacher, I think their want is for the power and authority the profession commands and not because they want to be an “educator.”

During our training, the modules like Child Psychology really helped us understand the effect of corporal punishment on learners, both physically and mentally. We also learnt that Bhutan was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) without any reservation in 1990. Today, anyone wanting to be a teacher should know that Corporal punishment is also against the teacher’s code of conduct. While at the training college we took a basic counseling program to teach us an alternative way of working with children. The module holds significant value in teaching us the substitution for corporal punishment. But, in my opinion, one module in the six months semester seems to be inadequate. We hardly got the chance to exercise or put to effect how this works.

I am back in a primary school again. I was assigned as a PP (Pre-primary) teacher  to Chhuboelsa Extended Class Room (ECR) under Tsirangtoe Lower Secondary School in Bhuan, after I completed my training course. On my first day, I entered the classroom with great excitement looking at faces that reminded me of myself decades ago and started a conversation with the children seated before me. I asked them many questions and they eagerly answered in a chorus. Once the ice had been broken and they seemed comfortable enough, I told them I wanted to appoint a class captain and asked if anyone was interested. Suddenly, everyone in the class raised their hands and started yelling enthusiastically. I asked if they knew the responsibility of the class captain. I was frightened and shocked when everyone unanimously said, “to beat la”. I had come a long way, but it seemed like the message hadn’t reached some parts of Bhutan. I realized I had a lot of work to do. The children, it seems, were learning well from corporal punishment. You get a little authority, even as a captain, and you have the power to “beat.”

Moved by such experiences, I’ve talked with many of my colleagues, parents and students on how they feel about corporal punishment in our schools. While, most of them are against  it there are still some who genuinely support it, and I think it is because they do not know any better. A senior teacher at Tsirangtoe Lower Secondary School said that he felt handicapped with the ban of corporal punishment. With a mere basic counseling course, he said, teachers are helpless in handling the adverse behavior of some stubborn students. He claimed that he has witnessed the swift change in students’ behavior after the ban, implying that it was getting worse. The teacher-in charge at Chhuboelsa ECR said that he has advised and spoken to many youth but  he was still unable to identify their problem, leave alone finding the solution. He said they always came up with some excuse prompting the “counseling session to become an advising session.” He said his advise was in vain when students took it lightly.  He, therefore, felt that the only way these children would listen was through strict disciplinary action like corporal punishment. Another teacher believed that, the discipline is an act of love where sometimes we are required “to be unkind, to be kind”. He quotes an excerpt from You can win by Shiv Khera: “We are all familiar with that big animal, the giraffe. A mama giraffe gives birth to a baby giraffe standing. All of a sudden the baby falls on a hard surface, and sits on the ground. The first thing the mama does is to get behind the baby and give him a hard kick. The baby gets up, but the legs are weak and wobbly and the baby falls down. Mama goes behind again and gives him one more kick. The baby gets up, but sits down again. Mama keeps kicking till the baby gets on its feet and starts moving. Why? Because mama knows that the only chance of survival for the baby is to get on its feet – otherwise it will be eaten by predators.”

But are we Giraffes?

When I heard these arguments I doubted myself and wondered whether corporal punishment could, in some instances, indeed be helpful? I recall an incident, when after hating school I had begun bunking classes and tried to force my parents to let me leave school. It was only with a painful slap that I received from my class teacher that made me stay back and continue my schooling. Today, I look back and wonder – would I have remained illiterate if he hadn’t hit me? Then I ask myself the question, but why did I want to run away from classes in the first place and what made me want to leave school in the first place? Was it because I felt so misunderstood by my teachers and tired of the beatings and the way I was treated? If they hadn’t made learning such a miserable experience I think I would have enjoyed school and not skipped classes. At one point I even referred to it as the “golden slap” because it had forced me to stay in school and indeed changed the course of my life. But I shouldn’t let that one incident sway the argument that corporal punishment, whether well intended or not, is right.

The golden slap is really a tap on the head with the good intent of making someone snap out of doing something stupid, naughty or silly. Corporal punishment on the other hand humiliates, embarrasses and hurts the child both physically and mentally. It is a punitive form of punishment that has many harmful repercussions to the overall development of the child’s mental and emotional development. Unlike the educated parents in towns, most of the parents at Tsirangtoe that I’ve talked to feel that, a little corporal punishment should be allowed in our schools. They believe that strict discipline in schools will eventually shape a child better. Some even overtly blame the ban for the increasing youth related problems. I think this is because they fail to understand that causes of our youth problems are more complex than that. They are, I think, confusing the symptom with the cause. The reason why we have youth problems and are witnessing a growing lack of respect for authority, is not because of banning corporal punishment, but because maybe such punishment or aggravation exists in their homes. What teachers also don’t realize is that their duty is not to discipline the children. That is the duty of the parents, and it is something that a child should learn at home, taught by the parents. There needs to be a partnership between parents and the school to help the child develop the right manners and discipline. If the child is undisciplined then the teacher should simply push the responsibility onto the parents. A teacher’s duty is to teach and educate and help steer the child in the right direction. But he/she must do the best he can in the most compassionate manner. If this doesn’t work, parents have to be called in to help dissolve the situation of the misbehaving child. And yet still, if bad behavior continues despite warnings it should result in strict disciplinary actions like detentions, suspensions and ultimately expulsion. There is no need for teachers to resort to taking matters into their own hands and mishandling a child by physically abusing them.

But sometimes, I have heard people talking as if all teachers are in favour of corporal punishment as if it is a pastime for us. Recently, a member in WAB (Writers Association of Bhutan) explicitly mentioned in his post that “teachers love to beat their students.”  It is really painful to digest such remarks and generalizations. Indeed, we teachers too hate having to scold our students for nothing. Our only wish is to see  our students enjoying school and learning; to see them happy and for us to enjoy what we do. There is nothing more annoying than to have misbehaving and troublesome children who disrupt the smooth running of a class or school. There is also nothing more saddening for us to see these children’s lives ruined with neglect, punishment and lack of support from the faculty and their parents.

Above all, the ban seems to have affected the morale of teachers who have known no other way to run a classroom or school than with corporal punishment. They feel that this instead empowers some parents who have first of all never taken an active and positive role in their children’s lives, leave alone education and discipline.  Some teachers feel that banning corporal punishment ties the teachers hands who are left to deal with troublesome children while parents blame, sue or even beat teachers for the the bad behavior of these children. It demoralizes hundreds of teachers across the country. What our education system, society and the parents of troubled children fail to realize is that this is a joint effort and without it, there are bound to be lapses in how our children are educated and disciplined. We are not talking about teachers who like beating for the sake of beating – like in my childhood. We are talking about teachers who are trying to do their jobs as best they can with the limited exposure they themselves have and the limited resources available to them. It is not the work of the teachers/educators alone to discipline a child. Our role is to teach mainly but it is the parents/family’s role to provide the values and discipline. For too long the Bhutanese attitude and society has put the onus on the teacher’s alone.  Education, is not limited to the school. The examples of what kind of person you want your child to become, begins in the family. Many of the parents today are educated, how many of them really take an interest in helping with home-work and communicating with the teachers?

If parents cannot handle the few children they have, then they shouldn’t expect a teacher who has 35 to 40 children in a class to perform wonders. People don’t seem to realize that teaching is not a simple 9 to 5 job. A Teacher is involved in the lives of 35/40 children everyday. There are lessons to prep for and assignments to correct, and ensure the safety and wellbeing of these children day in and day out till the end of the school year. Parents who seem to leave all the responsibility to the teachers should work with us and support us. With no parent involvement and support some of them come in with the smallest complaints and harass the teachers.

For instance, this year alone, many parents charged our teachers. A non-national school teacher of Pelkhil High School in Thimphu was beaten-up by a parent of a student in April this year. The reason, we heard was the teacher smacked the child twice on the back during class. The father of the student, it is said, pulled the teacher out of the classroom, and beat him up. Such disrespectful incidents can demotivate the teaching community. What must be remembered is that there are negligent people on both sides – the parents and in the teaching community. In August this year, an expatriate teacher at Sipsoo was arrested for violating the teacher’s code of conduct. Lured by showing some test questions, he harassed two class VIII girls by showing a porn movie and physically and sexually abusing them. Radhi JHSS principal was charged this June for acting unfriendly to the whole community including teachers and students. He manhandled the school caretaker two months after his arrival. He is also alleged to have held another teacher by the collar and accused for verbally assaulting and humiliating school staff in the meetings. Worse,  after a minister’s visit to the school on September 30, 2010, the same man forced his teaching staff  to drink two cases of beer, even though they didn’t want to.  And now we have a case where a teacher allegedly injected students with a used syringe as punishment.

What we as teachers must keep in mind is that such ill-thought, reckless, and ignorant behaviour of a few has serious implications on the entire teaching community. The status and nobility of the teaching profession can be better promoted only by our teachers who love and care for the children, their staff and their profession. The hard work of hundreds of teachers can be completely overshadowed by the blunder of a single teacher. Our profession therefore requires  us to be extra cautious of what we do, both inside and outside the school campus.  We are talking about the education of not one child, but of the entire nation, and for the next generation. Every stakeholder should do their share. Parents should help out in any way they can to support teachers and their children’s school, and the Ministry of Education has to assist teachers and principals with putting in place of corporal punishment, effective disciplinary measures in place that can have far-reaching consequences for those – parents/children/ and teachers – who do not comply. As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and our people and society have to realize that if parents do not step up to take more responsibility for their children, schools alone cannot be blamed for an education system which many see as failing.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Excerpt from my Diary

I still remember those gone-by days, feeling Anjali’s innocent dance steps. Her slim little body would dance to the beat of the music like a daffodil in the breeze. She was the queen of our school, and even the bees would wander in a daze over her fair face, her beauty comparable to that of the most stunning blossoms.
When she was on the school stage, glittering like a sunrise, everybody would cheer up and become excited, admiring her. For me, I was hopelessly addicted to her performances since I was in fifth standard. She performed a nursery rhyme, ‘Dancing Butter’, in 1997 when she was in third standard, a landmark moment in her dancing life.
Our fathers were classmates, alumni of Jakar High School. In school, my father was an academically gifted child with great leadership skills. He’d received a number of awards and certificates for his excellence in academics and leadership. On the other hand, Anjali’s father, Rajesh, was less academic, but he had shown himself to be an artful student on many occasions.
My father gave a welcome dinner party when Rajesh and his family first arrived in Ura. He got his transfer placement at Pangkhar Forest Check-post, a branch of Thrumshingla National Park. We spent a most agreeable evening, and it was there that I first saw Anjali, Rajesh’s daughter. When the moon cast its white light on the warm tones of Anjali’s face, I went dumb, gazing in admiration.
That night was the first time that I suffered insomnia. Anjali’s beauty consumed my mind; even when I closed my eyes tightly, I would see this young girl, in the full bloom of childhood. A real cutie. Her thin dress made her look like a glamour girl, her silky hair dancing in the breeze.
Later that night, I fantasised about proposing to Anjali. My negative thoughts disturbed the cheerfulness that I had enjoyed for a while, albeit only in my imagination. I fished my poetry notebook from the basket and translated my wild dreams into rhymes and rhythm, a poem:

‘Your face beats the beauty of the moon’,
I said,
But she blushed like a loon,
Letting my heart bleed.

‘Your lips beat the beauty of a rose’,
I said,
But she stared with a pose,
Letting my heart bleed...
That night, I realised that words come easily when our feelings are sincere. I enjoyed the breezy manner of a poet for a while. I remember my father once said, ‘A doleful expression makes a good poem’. I never fully agreed with him until that night. I had always believed that we become true poets when we are in love.
Sometimes, I felt like I was inviting disgrace into my life. I worried that admiring an eight-year-old girl could be disastrous. Nevertheless, if there was something to be blamed for that, it was her exceptional beauty. I’d never witnessed such extreme loveliness.
In school, we used to stay together most of the time. She was in third standard, and I was in eighth. On the way to and from home and school, Anjali used to hum the nursery rhymes that her teachers had taught in the previous classes. Sometimes, she used to pose questions like,‘Do you like my voice? Do you think I will become a singer when I grow up?’ I used to exaggerate, comparing her voice with that of the skylark,saying that people would prefer her voice once recorded.
My father once read me a poem, ‘Ode to a skylark’by P.B. Shelley. He said the skylark is a small brown bird that sings as it flies high up in the sky. Ever since then, I’ve always thought of the skylark when appreciating sweet voices.
My father was an English teacher at Ura Primary School. He is an aficionado of the poetry of Keats, P.B. Shelley and the Shakespearian cannon. His friends sometimes refer to him as a walking encyclopaedia. He often uses the phrase ‘the milk of human kindness’ from Shakespeare’s play ‘Macbeth’. Perhaps, the phrase inspires him to be good and kind to other people. Today, he spends his time reading the works of the most illustrious Poet Laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson. Sometimes, he even tries his hand at poetry, but I now realise that he is a little selfish. No matter how good or bad his compositions, he keeps them in his folder, refusing to share them with the world.
Anjali’s early interest in dancing developed into an abiding passion. Even at home, she would often play Hindi music on the radio and start tapping her leg with the pace of the beat. I would remain quiet, silently admiring her dungkhar akhel, her right-turned conch-shaped hands that would swing in the air.
Her father, a tall man with a sharp elongated face, is the strictest man I have ever seen. My father calls him Rajesh Dajo, meaning Brother Rajesh. As soon as he arrives, the room goes silent. He gets mad when he sees Anjali with her songbook or in her dancing dress. Her father has never watched herperform on the stage.
I remember once, the school administration invited Rajesh as a chief guest to the annual school concert. He rejected the invitation after learning that Anjali was to perform, admonishing her for participating.
That evening, I was with Anjali, holding her, consoling her. She cried the whole night and refused to dance. She cried and cried bitter tears, as if she’d lost the most important thing in her life. It is really painful to see someone so close to your heart shed tears. I couldn’t do much to calm her; instead, I cried with her until the end.
In spring, she’d pick the wildflowers that would bloom all along the paths and make bouquets of daisies. She used to stare at the flush of the flowers and shed tears of admiration. ‘Flowers have to live’, she used to say. Sometimes, we’d completely lose ourselves collecting various flowers and belate for school. When we would realise that we were late, Anjali used to go pale with fear. I’d feel a sudden chill, aware of the scoldings and beatings ahead. But I’d try to remain dry-eyed in front of Anjali.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

State of our education

As a teacher it gives me an immaculate thrill to hear our hon’ble education minister’s response on how the ministry’s prudent actions have culminated in the improvement of quality of education in the country. While I am pleased and at one with most of the points, there are still some areas that seem a little too confusing. Perhaps, thousands of others, especially our teachers, have felt the same.

I agree that the state of education in our country is good, if not better. But the satire evokes when we consider whether every stake holder sings the same hymn. There are still many who rate the state of our education far below. We must not be depressed by the lower ratings nor should we be too excited by the higher ones. We must always look far ahead from where we are. We have the responsibility to take the state of education in our country to ever newer heights. 

Whatever the rating be, it couldn’t have come at a better time as it gives us a basis to take stock of things.

An important element that determines the quality of education is the policies. The quality of education will rise or fall depending upon how applicable our well charted education policies are. It doesn’t really matter whether the policies are borrowed or home-grown. What is important is whether the policies are congruent with the local needs and sensibilities.

For instance, the policy that requires every Bhutanese child to be properly educated appears attractive on papers. But, such noble policies seem to sink without a trace when it comes to formulating effective programmes to meet the end. Schools must be provided with the right reading materials carefully chosen to benefit the students. The choice of the medium of instruction shifting back and forth between English and Dzongkha in teaching Bhutanese History is a case to be considered. Resources are the main concern in our schools, especially those that are located in far-flung areas. Lack of resources has sufficiently added to the deteriorating quality of education in our country.

Teachers have a great role to play in maintaining the quality of education. I agree that the quality of education cannot be better than the quality of teachers. Therefore, we must only recruit those people who are convinced that education is their calling.

Our Sherig Lyonpo revealed that there are also those who have stumbled into teaching by chance. This questions the applicability of our education policies. Why is the number teachers who are truly dedicated marginal? What policies have we framed to attract the best people in the profession so that the quality of education is improved? What remarkable reforms have we seen in the recent past to uplift the morale of teachers?

It is pleasing to hear about the in-service teacher-education master plan at the Centenary Institute of Education in Yonphula, Trashigang. Such plan does have a familiar ring. We are training and educating many of our teachers both within and without the country. In-service trainings without doubt cost our coffers dear, but its effect on the education system remains open to discussion. Prerogatives must reach those people who are truly deserving of them. Offering trainings to teachers just for the sake of training them on bases that are most often unreliable is much akin to forcing a horse to drink.

The educational reforms like infusing GNH values by building green schools in the country is by far one of the most sagacious ideas But for such well-intended policies to bear fruits, teachers who are the main players must be properly remunerated. What good will the written policies bring if the teachers who implement in the field are not committed enough? Whose responsibility is it to ensure that the teachers are given the rewards they merit?

We must not make guinea pigs of our schools and students for testing new teaching methods borrowed from outside without considering our needs and preferences. What has been successful elsewhere may not necessarily work here. We need to rethink our education policies and design appropriate curriculum for our schools. And above all, we need to stop good teachers from leaving. Let us not let the quality of our education deteriorate. We have just observed Sherig Century in pride. Let us not end the journey of a hundred years in bitter tears.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

What demoralises our teachers?

Through the Lens of Confused Teacher

One course vacancy that remains vacant every year despite many eligible graduates is PGDE (Post Graduate Diploma in Education), because smart graduates understand the hard situation of teaching profession. Most clever graduates prefer to remain unemployed than join teaching. Even for class XII graduates, most of them keep B.Ed. (Bachelor in Education) as their last option. Understanding the prospect, they opt for some diploma course rather than B.Ed.

Still, our expectations seem to be very high. We want our teachers to be ideal – competent and committed. Quality education is our real concern, and we want our teachers to uphold it. Teachers should be role models so we cannot accept them making mistakes, both big and small. 

What we are overlooking always is the causes that totally demoralize our teachers to whom the quality education belongs to. There are many and mostly avoidable grounds that pull down the legs of our teachers.

It is time for us to know that despite many people looking down on the teaching profession, some intentionally join teaching even when many doors are open for them. Also, there are many self-financed students who are paying huge amounts of money to become what most people don’t want to be. But we seem to neglect them, unaware of such cases let alone recognizing and cheering them up. I think it is really demoralizing from the day one itself.

BCSE for teacher graduates was introduced in the recent years. But how many of us know about it? Not many, because RCSC seems to see teacher graduates as less important than other graduates. They conduct exams silently and declare results noiselessly without inviting the media for coverage. Likewise, the media too seems to feel teacher-related news to be trivial. It is quite depressing for the toppers of BCSE-B.Ed. graduates to go unseen and unrecognized. Even more upsetting is to see most overall toppers placed in some difficult places, meaning topping BCSE-B.Ed. is less important than topping in general graduates’ exams.

One common concern that all teachers share is TA/DA. It is quite common for teachers not to get TA/DA after tiring dedicated service. Some officials even explained to teachers that there is no TA/DA allocated for teachers. It is understood that the system does not want teacher movement during the academic session. But why are our teachers assigned works that require teacher movement in the first place? Why is it so that there is no money for genuine TA/DA for teachers when there is much money for table tour for other civil servants? Or else, doesn’t BCSR 2012 apply for teaching profession?

Teacher placement is another concern. Many DEOs seem to feel easy to place fresh teacher-graduates to difficult places. This, I think, will really dampen the enthusiasm of our fresh teachers. More than a personal concern, it is really hampering the quality education. During first few years of profession, rather than placing them in the schools where many senior competent teachers are present to guide them, they are placed in the schools where there is a single teacher or in schools where multi-grade teaching is required. In such a way, the system also contributes in deteriorating quality education, but the blame always goes to our teachers.

Some teachers share their concern of their bosses being harsh. For instance, some principals tell off the teachers openly in front of hundreds of students. Many teachers share their frustration via forums for their DEOs and ADEOs being very rude with them unnecessarily. One time, an official from the headquarters asked one of the teachers insultingly if he knows A for Apple, B for Ball when the conversation over the phone was unclear. The fact is that the poor teacher was calling from one of the far-flung places where phone network is not as good as it is in the town where the official lives. Just imagine the status of our teachers in the eyes of the officials working comfortably on a revolving chair.

The consequence of teachers being looked down upon can be huge. Even the public keep their eyes wide open upon our teachers. A simple mistake that the teachers make is much emphasized, never realizing all the goods done. For instance, today parents question teachers for manhandling their children even for good intention. It seems like people feel proud when they are able to take poor teachers before the higher authorities. Till now, nobody has asked if there are some alternative disciplinary tools that will shape their children. And our media seems to be interested in covering and underlining such negative stories.

Finally, if we are really worried about the deteriorating quality of education and adverse behaviour of our teachers, it is also high time for us to identify the cause. Identifying and understanding the cause itself is not enough. We need to find the solution. We need to attract the best of best people to the teaching profession. And to attract the best people, we need to improve the status of the teaching profession. I wish for the system that will motivate our teachers who are already serving in the field, and inspire the best of the best people to join the teaching profession.

First appeared in Bhutanobserver