Oped

What’s the problem?

  • It is essential to find out why teachers are quitting in droves to join other professions
- NIRANJAN KHATIWADA

Jun 2, 2017-

Teaching is among the noblest of professions that facilitates learning and creates all other professions. The responsibility of creating a successful country thus rests on the shoulders of teachers. It is a teacher’s job to teach morality, justice, tolerance and compassion to children. So, protecting society from injustice, immorality, corruption and violence lies largely in the hands of teachers. Being a good teacher is one of the most difficult tasks because a word of encouragement from a teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instil a love for learning among children. This can make a difference in each child’s life.

Lack of incentives

Finding good and qualified teachers has become a tremendous challenge for schools these days. I teach at a private school, and I know why teachers quit a job they love so much. They are leaving because of increased responsibility, extra workload, unmanageable class size, ineffective administrators, frivolous meetings and the feeling of not having done a good job. Likewise, job insecurity, low salary or untimely payment and lack of retirement funds in private schools are other reasons why the teaching profession is losing its attraction.

Teachers are a tenacious lot, but some are leaving because they just can’t fight the system anymore and can’t balance teaching and raising their family. Furthermore, many school administrators do not respect teachers. Parents also have unrealistic expectations about their children. Teachers get frustrated by all this pressure, and they eventually leave to pursue other career opportunities. The security of future benefits has not been able to keep teachers engaged in this noble profession either, and many public school teachers are leaving their jobs to join a political career which is being seen as a lifetime opportunity. 

As per the School Teachers Record Office, nearly 100 public school teachers have given notice that they are leaving. Many of them were candidates in the recently concluded local polls. Since teachers are seen as respectable personalities in rural areas and are in touch with locals, political parties prefer to nominate them as their election candidates. This was clearly evident in the 1997 local polls too. Many top politicians including former prime ministers Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Jhala Nath Khanal worked as teachers before joining politics.

Minimise brain drain

However, there has not been much media attention on why teaching has become the last choice as a career option. Teachers are retiring early or leaving the profession after serving for only a year or two. There is less focus on the growing trend of people leaving at a midpoint in their careers and turning their backs on a profession in which they have invested so much. Teachers who have dedicated themselves to the job completely, those who handled sports teams, field excursions and other extracurricular activities, have devoted all their efforts to ensure that students attain their targets.

Hence, it is a matter of concern to us that so little attention is being paid to experienced and committed teachers who are leaving their jobs in droves. Ultimately, in any relationship, if people do not feel that their dedication is being reciprocated, positive feelings will not last long. This demoralising reality is why many people are making the decision to join the mass exodus of those leaving the profession. It is with a heavy heart that teachers leave a career they love. 

But without reciprocation, love eventually dies; and as with any loveless relationship, it is finally time to move on. Teaching is a highly esteemed job, and the government and concerned stakeholders should focus on encouraging people to join the profession after addressing the persistent problem of high teacher turnover. 

Teaching will become meaningful when it is done with love and affection. It needs commitment and wholehearted dedication. So, if we are serious about teacher quality and the teaching profession, we need to make a universal commitment to provide training and instruction to our teachers. Likewise, the school management should perform their roles as mentors, and regularly observe and guide teachers besides helping them to set challenging personal goals. 

Further, the government should design an appropriate plan and policy to minimise brain drain. It should also conduct effective monitoring of educational planning and policy and guide schools to function as per the government education system. This way, the teaching profession will be strengthened by broadening the roles and expectations for teachers. Also, the school management and stakeholders concerned can encourage our teachers to take on greater levels of responsibility by developing new pathways. Career ladders with a secure environment and attractive incentives that recognise and compensate great teachers should be provided. This will attract the young generation towards this noble profession too.

Khatiwada is a teacher and child counsellor

Published: 02-06-2017 08:20

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