Teachers taking leave senselessly?
The Government hopes to introduce a reward system for teachers, aimed at enhancing their skills and talents and conduct programmes for teachers, to reduce the high percentage of absenteeism, Education Minister Susil Premajayantha said.
“There is much political involvement at the provincial level and some trade unions have complained about that. We are trying our best to avoid such involvements. Meanwhile teachers too should change their attitudes and understand the importance of teaching,” he told The Sunday Times.
Minister Premajayantha said a national forum would be held in a few weeks’ time to assess the present quality of education and to discuss ways to improve its quality.
The Minister had recently stated that of the 200,000 Government teachers in the country around 40,000 (20 percent) are on leave daily and this has affected the studies of students.
Education Ministry acting Secretary S. Thillanadarajah said: “Twenty percent (of teachers taking leave) is a large number and this will have a great effect on studies, as it is a continuing process. In the past, teachers took teaching as a social responsibility and there was discipline within the profession. Most teachers were committed to their profession and they went beyond school hours teaching after school and even on weekends,” he said.
He said at present many schools do not make any arrangements to appoint relief teachers to look after those classes where the teacher is absent.
The Education Ministry statistics branch revealed that in 2006 there were 240,908 teachers, and 3,836,550 students in 9714 Government schools. The average pupil-teacher ratio for last year was 19, even though the World Bank had advised that it be kept at 26.
According to the Ministry, even though there is a dearth of teachers in rural schools, there is a surplus of teachers in leading national schools.
Ceylon Teacher Service Union Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe said that the politicised education system has reduced job satisfaction among teachers.
“Teachers do not get transfers as they wish. There is much political involvement in the service. Some teachers are transferred without any reason. Due to this most teachers are not contented with their jobs. Teachers who serve in difficult areas tend to spend more time with their family when they go home on holidays which fall in the middle of the week. They don’t mind taking the extra days from their personal leave,” he said.
He said that according to Sri Lanka Teacher Service guidelines the Ministry should provide them with promotions, but most teachers have lost hopes on promotions as they have been politicised. In 1997 there was a salary anomaly for teachers while they have to stay 2 to 3 years to get a distress loan.
Mr. Jayasinghe said that even though transfers, salaries and promotions are politicised, to some extent teachers should be responsible and keep in mind that the future of the students is in their hands. According to Mr. Jayasinghe the poor results at the recent O/L Exam were not due to teacher absenteeism but to the education reforms.
“The present education reforms system began in 1997 and it is now nearly 10 years. The whole teaching procedure was changed from exams to school-based assessment. By this, teachers wasted a lot of time. Students don’t know how to face exams and that is the main reason for the failures at exams. Even the ministry encourages the teachers to make these assessments instead of gearing up the children for exams,” he said.