Bonded teachers?

Teachers matter

Suppose you’ve just completed college. And suppose that you are a topper – that you’re in the top 5% of the graduates. Would you consider becoming a teacher?

You should. For the sake of our children, you should. That, at least, is what McKinsey & Company suggest.

About five years ago, McKinsey sought to find out why some schools succeed while others don’t. They did that by studying the school systems of 25 countries, including 10 of the top performers, to identify the common characteristics of high-performing school systems.

McKinsey’s year-long study revealed that increased spending and ambitious education reform do not necessarily improve school systems. Instead, they singled out teacher quality as the most important attribute affecting student outcomes, and suggested that:

“The three factors that matter most are:

  1. getting the right people to become teachers;
  2. developing them into effective instructors;and
  3. ensuring the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child.”

Teacher quality matters and matters a lot. That’s why South Korean schools make sure they attract the top 5% of the graduates. That’s why they boast one of the best school systems in the world. And that’s why the Koreans claim that: “The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.”

Similarly, other countries that have great school systems also attract the best teachers. Finland, for example, attracts the top 10% of graduates. And Singapore and Hong Kong each attract the top 30% of their graduates.

The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. That’s right. So that’s why we should do more to encourage our best graduates to become teachers. That’s why we should – as suggested by McKinsey – get the right people to become teachers, train them well, and then enable them to teach.

If we really want to improve our school system, we should get serious about attracting and then training and retaining the best possible teachers. That, unfortunately, is not the case right now.

And the situation is about to get even worse.

The RCSC has recently announced that, except for posts that require a teaching background, teachers will not be eligible to apply for other vacant positions in the government.

Our schools need to attract the best of our graduates. But the best will not opt for teaching if they know that they will never be able to apply for other government posts.

There’s no doubt that the RCSC’s rule is meant to address teacher shortage. But the rule is shortsighted – by preventing teachers from competing for other government positions, teaching is going to become even more unattractive and the best teachers will stay away from teaching in the first place. That will not be good for our schools. And that will not be good for our children. So the RCSC should rescind its rule.

Teaching should be attractive. It should not be forced, even for teachers.

Bonded teachers is not a good idea. The RCSC and the Education Ministry may wish to read McKinsey’s “How the world’s best-performing school systems come out on top” to understand why.


Facebook Comments:


  1. Very good suggestion to MOE. keep it up OL. But OL, the main problem is, all the officer in the Education Ministry will not understand these issues. Because they are selected from teachers in Bhutan including Minister himself. So, no wonder why they are shortsighted.
    1)PTC teacher = not qualified in class XI.
    2)B.Ed teachers = Not qualified in other professional like doctor, engineer and so on.
    3)PGCE teachers = BA with no confidence to sit for RCSE exam.

    Education officers are selected from those unsuccessful group.
    Thus, another 20-30 years no chance to improve the education.
    so, please don,t waste your time to give advise to them. they will laugh at you. because they don’t understand your concern.

  2. I think in order to attract the best, the the incentives for the teachers should be increased. People say that teachers get 2 months paid vacation during the winter time, however they don’t realize that teachers work Saturdays, so in reality teachers get less off days than other civil servants. The exact days was 138 days vacation days for civil servants and 98 days for teachers per year.

    Now I don’t think it is fair to let teachers enter civil service through back door entering. After all most of those civil servant officers had to appear for civil service exam and get selected in top 36 to get into RIM. Instead of banning teachers from joining civil service outright, what they should have done is make them appear for Civil Service exams along with other graduates. If they get selected, why not, by all means, let them join.

    So the solution, increase teaching incentive and let teachers appear for civil service exam if they want to join other departments and ministries.

  3. I expected the people at RCSC to be smarter than this. I think the recent policy regarding teachers not allowed to apply for civil service is absurd. I think they have blundered.
    Rather than making such stringent rules I personally feel that they could have very simply taken teachers out of the civil service. This could have saved a lot of dissappointment and also saved the face of RCSC. Personally I feel teachers should not be civil servants. This could have solved all the problems. And ofcourse teachers must be of high quality and branded college/university graduates. They must be treated with repect and honor because teachers make or break the future citizens. “Quality” if thou seek then “quality” is what one must “make”. Teachers should be paid condireable amount and they must work hard too. Teaching must not be made a joke neither teaching must not be made ‘Cheap”. It should be something that one must be proud of and desires to be.
    Teaching is not as easy as one assumes to be. Personally I think teaching is one of the toughest profession and a learned one too. Without having the resorvior of knowledge, how can one expect to teach.
    Thereofer……. this is a question to ponder….

  4. Fully agree with Truth. Teachers should be required to compete/sit for RCSC exams if they want to join the civil service. It is definitely not fair to all those who excelled and qualified.

    Their leave should also be increased to 138 days.

  5. Motor Mouth says

    teachers are treated like second-class citizens by the RCSC. already the teachers are burdened with heavy work load and other obligations and now this bonded-labor issue has opened pandoras box for the MoE

    who organizes the school concerts, sports days, functions, events, fete days, debates etc when we lounge around in our offices playing solitaire and chatting on fb? teachers spend more time preparing lessons than delivering them. imagine the pressure. they sacrifice their time and effort while we are quick to raise fingers if there is something amiss.

    we talk about the deteriorating standard of education but we haven’t been able to get or even retain the best teachers in the system. why is there this failing? MoE is a paper tiger. their recent transfer fiasco involving teachers who spent more than 20 years in thimphu, has come back to haunt them.

    if there are no more benefits and compensation to be offered to the teachers, at least treat teachers with respect. limiting their movement and professional growth does not bode well for the country as well as for our children.

    but when all is said and done, this is what happens when the RCSC is full of dinosaurs who have their head stuck so far up their rear-end that everything they spew reeks of excrement.

  6. i think the above article is not only going to discourage the graduate but also the teachers who are working prsently, by writing such as “unsucessful group”. Other wise the shortage of teachers will increase. so stop blaming and think of how to make it better cause you are also product of that unsucessful group

  7. I agree that restricting options for teachers is a bad idea. While I understand the possible short-term consequences, it is an idea driven by fear and not foresight. It is the thought and feeling of being forced that we detest more than the actual options being closed. With a strategy like this you are going to piss off even those never thought of leaving teaching. Surely if teaching is made attractive, people would stay. If people still want to leave, then they are not meant for it in the first place.
    It is funny that when the rest of the world is trying to enhance the quality and make teaching attractive by opening it up, we’re doing it by closing it down. Take the idea of Teach for America that has caught the imagination of so many countries all over the world now. You try to attract the top performers to commit a couple of years teaching in return for scholarships, and many seem to continue even after they have options to leave. For many people who could be potentially our great teachers, we foreclose the options for them by creating a poor image of teaching & make sure it is not for them. Not just the fresh graduates but I think the government can encourage mid-career professionals to take a break to teach through similar programmes if they’re really serious about improving it. I think people (like Sherig above)definitely need to understand the value and weight of teaching. It is so easy to slander teachers when you yourself selfishly shirk that responsibility. That sort of comment should be reserved for people who passed RCSC and has been a teacher themselves, and certainly not for smartasses who think they were born top graduates without having to go to a school & think that they are so above teaching.

  8. concerned says

    both OL and RCSc are wrong….
    we have acute shortage of health workers and teachers why???
    thats because they are moving out and want to be out of it…why??
    so bonding them and not allowing them to move out is not the solution
    solution is make it attractive enough that people rush for it and want to stay in it as simple as that……..

  9. Dear Sanja, i strongly agree with you that i have to reserved for people who passed RCSC. But may be it is only 0.1% who opted teaching after getting through RCSC and some force to teach in the schools after taking scholarship(bond sign between RCSC and teacher)
    i can prove my views and i have lots of evidence.

    few tips for: you select randomly five teachers and ask why did you chose teaching? how many other professional are you qualified at the time you are joining teaching? from there you can understand the real situation.

  10. please ignore the previous post

    OL, you have some good ideas…however maybe we should think things through before making decisions. I totally do not agree with the RCSC’s ad-hoc decision, with no thoughts put into improving the teaching profession or the quality of education, which you rightly pointed out go hand in hand.

    The question you raise is in the end the most important one, why don’t the best aspire to be teachers in Bhutan? unlike S. Korea, Finland, Singapore, etc. is it the hardship of the post, the lack of glamour (no duty car, less foreign travel opportunities, etc.), the lack of prestige or the lack of adequate salary.
    In the end I think its a combination of many factors, I don’t think allowing teachers to move on to other civil service jobs will attract the best to the teaching cadre. In fact I feel it will attract precisely those we don’t want as teachers to the profession. They will see the ample opportunities to join the profession, the relatively easy criteria and the opportunity in the future to move on to other more ‘lucrative’ jobs in the civil service. This will taint the profession -as it has already done- as being one where those without opportunities flock to. Thereby ultimately discouraging the better candidates -who may have a desire to become teachers and serve the nation- from joining a profession that is equated as one for those with no choices, basically a dumping ground of the rejects.

    So while I don’t agree with the RCSC’s decision, I also don’t agree with your proposed solution. I think it is flippant, not thought through and given very easily. I think proper research has to be done before spouting unneeded advice which does no-one any good.

  11. Let’s do something about our “bonded doctors” first. They are amongst the top 10% of the students every year but as we all know, the life of our doctors are miserable as compared to doctors in other places. Burmese doctors in Bhutan are paid US$1500/month(ie about Nu.70,000/month) whereas our own Bhutanese doctors who are doing the same jobs and sometimes do even more than these Burmese doctors are earning a basic salary of just about Nu. 17,000/month. Is that the reward for being amongst the top 10% of our students? Is that all the reward for being a doctor after all those hardships in your high school and the tedious medical schools?

    I think if we can not do anything about these “bonded doctors”, trying to attract the top 5% of our students into teaching professions is just a policital horseshit!!

  12. It is indeed best alternatives considered to retain teachers in the system. But, the morale of teachers are low with the announcement of lack of upward mobility in the civil service. While the RCSC has given its verdict on teachers, isn’t the RCSC violiting the constitution.The article 26 section 5, which states “the commission shall, in the interest of promoting merit, productivity and equity, ensure that uniform rules and regulations on recruitment, appointment, staffing, training, transfers and promotion prevail throughout the civil service.” The RCSC seems like they have overlooked the section 5 ensuring “equity” and application of “uniform rules”? Hence, there is a need for active role of judiciary to protect the constitution to protect the civil servents.

  13. THINK TWICE RCSC… because the people who are working at RCSC also have their Kids who should go under the teachers that you all have demotivated… If you think RCSC regulates the civil servants then RCSC should produce good civil servants. But dreaming to have effecient and qualified citizen of the country with demotivated teachers is like expecting stone turn to gold….(i too had a nightmare- to find Nu 5 on the way to school to eat chocolates…)

  14. Many teachers in the country have been already looking for other alternatives to quit this job. Now the time has really come for them to show their strength. People are demoralizing them instead of respecting their work and providing support.
    Do we know how many teachers are planning to quit this tiresome job? I know many people totally blaming the poor teachers. Instead we should blame the system of our Education First. Lets be frank that are they given equal oppurtunities as other civil servants? Are they provided with the enough facilities? Are they paid enough?
    What kind of facilities? When other civil sevants who are working in health, animal,agriculture/RNR and many were provided with housing facility, teachers have to rush for private compartments for rent! Forget about the teachers who are working in urban even those teachers who are working in rural are given no shelter! So they get frustrated with their profession. How long are they going to be dedicated to their service when they are suffering a lot!
    Now its good that RCSE in colaboration with Ministry of Education is coming up with the new rule. I am sure this will close the entrance for qualified and enthusiastic teachers who are willing to come in Teaching service. Moreover, its 100% likely that many teachers will leave this job soon before passing this new rule. The time will come very soon where we can experience a sudden acute shortage of teachers in schools in the country.
    Lets wait and feel the difference very soon. What would be the position of our Education system hence forth?

  15. Jambay Dorji says

    I am teacher teaching Mathematics/Physics. I will look forward to resign from Govt. School and work in Private School.

  16. Human aspiration and greed are like distance across the Universe; it is finite but can not be measured in our life time. So folks, be contended and do your best in the job in front of you. There is no solution if we attempt to find solution for all our wants and needs.


  17. Really sick of this discussion.

    It is not that we don’t know what to do. The problem is we don’t do what needs to be done.

  18. What are we upto? These policies will only make the teaching profession as the last desired profession. Further, the ones who are already in this profession, their aspirations are being killed. A person who himself is not happy with his profession and whose aspirations have no meaning, How safe our kids are under there patronage. Will they ever inspire a kid to follow their footsteps?

    We need teachers who take teaching not as a job but as passion. This highest level of motivation can come only when the basic needs (food, shelter and self esteem) of an individual are taken care of.


  19. I totally agree with Demissa – we don’t actually do what needs to be done. Business Bhutan recently carried an article on a proposal to motivate teachers that looked very much like the Singapore approach in many ways. We come up with all the idea but they’re often dropped flat because the government is not in a position to commit the resources. Now, surely if we want good returns, we have to invest – you can’t attract lions by throwing peanuts, only monkeys will come. For instance, in Singapore if you get selected to be trained as a teacher, you are already a civil servant with all the perks and benefits. We all know that there is only so much in the pot but where does education and teachers fall in the list of priorities? Part of the problem I think is with how tangible the returns on investment get. If you allocate budget for infrastructure development, you have buildings to show at the end of the project; but teaching and education is more of a process and results are long-term. Improvements/ consequences can only be seen after several years, and reform efforts take ages and requires a great deal of patience and persistence. This doesn’t go too well with people expecting immediate results, especially when you have a very limited time to prove things, be it in politics or civil service.
    There is so much joy and challenge in teaching, but they are all subject to meeting of certain pre-requisites such as being able to take good care of one’s family, opportunities to continue to learn, safe work environment, good resource support, reasonable degree of autonomy, etc. If teachers cannot be provided with all that, you cannot expect them to deliver, or for that matter remain hostage of all the short-term strategies.

  20. Politicallyincorrect says

    Happy Bonded-teachers’ Day!


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