Most people hesitate to become teachers due to the lack of facilities and opportunities to prosper in the profession
- Most individuals hesitate to join the teaching profession due to the lack of facilities in this profession
- Some students are not getting the opportunity to follow their studies from their desired stream due to the lack of teachers
Sri Lanka is a country which revolves around a teacher-student education system. It’s highly doubtful whether this country has enough teachers; especially for subjects like English, Math and Science.
With regard to the shortage of teachers in the country the Daily Mirror spoke to the Former Secretary, Ministry of Education Dr. Tara de Mel. She spoke about matters in the Sri Lankan education system with a microscopic view. De Mel also didn’t avoid drawing examples from the education systems in the other countries like Singapore. Dr. De Mel referred to the great service teachers are rendering to the country.
“They are doing a great service in different parts of the country and even in the suburbs of the Colombo city. The facilities for them are sub optimal still and I would say the majority of our teachers are doing a huge service to make our students receive a good quality education. Despite having said that, it showed during the pandemic that teachers are hugely handicapped in multiple ways. Firstly they don’t have the facilities and they don’t get a in-service regular training whilst they are on the job. They are not equipped with the skills necessarily. Today we are in the 21st century and in the third decade of the 21st century. The Covid pandemic exposed all of these because teachers were just thrown into the deep end as it were. Most of them didn’t have devices and the money for data packages. Also very few had optic connections. Most importantly they never received a training on how to use the same curriculum they are having in the school system for online education,” explained Dr. de Mel.
Some teachers are leaving the country in terms of taking a holiday. Most of the teachers are leaving Sri Lanka by giving up on their careers. The government is not giving the allowances, enjoyed by other government workers, to teachers. We know that Sri Lanka is facing a huge economic crisis and people cannot afford their expenses. But the government workers aren’t receiving a sufficient salary and enough allowances
- Joseph Stalin Ceylon Teachers Union’s General Secretary
Also she underscored that teachers are facing so many problems and they are limited in so many ways.
“So teachers are by and large handicapped in multiple ways and now the most important thing is they are paid a pittance. Some teachers earn salaries low as like 35,000 to 40,000 when they enter to the teaching industry. The maximum a teacher who is nearing retirement will get is a salary between 55,000 to 60,000. At present what can you do with that? And almost all teachers use public transport to reach their schools while most of them walk to their work places. Still we have 500 schools without running water. That’s the kind of basket of problems teachers do have,” explained Dr. de Mel.
Moreover she mentioned that most of the people hesitate to join the teaching profession due to the lack of facilities in this profession. Further speaking she affirmed that the teaching profession is not a glorified one in Sri Lanka and added that this as a huge problem in the system.
“Why do people join the teaching profession? It’s because it is a ready-made government job. So we have19 colleges of education and the bulk of teachers are coming from training colleges. In my personal opinion teachers are the backbone of any education system. In countries like Singapore they glorify the teachers. Here we don’t do that,” said Dr. de Mel.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of subject based teachers in the country, students in some areas are facing few problems. Some students are not getting the opportunity to follow their studies from their desired stream due to the lack of teachers.
“In terms of skilled teachers, if you look at the 10,100 schools some 3000 schools are the only ones that offer education up to A’Levels. Out of these 3000 also less than 1000 offer science, maths and technology for A’Levels. So in that context can you imagine that there is a shortage in the number of teachers available to teach these subjects? So that’s another problem. It’s a vicious circle. The students can’t get an education in the science or maths streams because there aren’t enough teachers. Teachers don’t remain because of poor facilities. It’s a problem with long-term consequences from which I don’t think this country can solve for a long period of time,” added Dr. de Mel.
Dr. De Mel highlighted that this issue is not only limited to the schools in rural areas. She stated that this is an issue which is common in schools around city limits as well.
“I have been speaking to the school principals just outside the main city limits. If you ask them how many classes they have, how many English teachers they have, how many science teachers they have, the answer will be we don’t have enough. It is not just the rural schools. First and foremost you have to try and attract the best brains into the teaching profession. So how do we get the best brains? The best brains don’t come for nothing. We have to increase their pay. The main argument is that they can’t increase their pay because they are in the same employment bracket. They’ll say they can’t make a difference with regard to the teachers’ pay. I say that at present you can pay their basic salaries which are in the range of 35,000-40,000 and consider giving them an allowance if that is what compatible with other sectors. You can give huge allowances for travelling. Another big allowance you can give is for housing. Initially get the best and the brightest individuals into the teaching profession. Singapore is a classic example. They glamorise the teaching profession. Never allow a teacher to walk into the classroom without professional training,” added Dr. de Mel.
Teachers are by and large handicapped in multiple ways and now the most important thing is they are paid a pittance. Some teachers earn salaries low as like 35,000 to 40,000 when they enter to the teaching industry. The maximum a teacher who is nearing retirement will get is a salary between 55,000 to 60,000. At present what can you do with that
- Dr. Tara de Mel Former Secretary, Ministry of Education
She did not forget to speak out about the training offered by the teacher training colleges.
“We have a very institutionalised teacher training system. These colleges of education are so important. That’s where the teachers come from. There are about 4000 teachers graduating from the colleges of education. From the schools teachers do leave. From the colleges of education teachers are entering the system. Now in my opinion these colleges of education have to be like the towers of knowledge, creativity and innovation. People who teach at the teacher training colleges are called the master teachers or either master educators. Sadly those master educators don’t have the facilities to teach. Teachers who are coming to schools have to receive a kind of in-service training. Our minds rust if we have to teach the same thing. We need some refreshing courses. That is offered in in-service training. So those teachers are in a pathetic situation. There aren’t enough master educators or master trainers and even if there are, which is rare, they don’t have enough facilities. So that is the pathetic situation regarding the training,” Dr. de Mel said as she shared her knowledge about the teachers in the country.
In connection with the topic of teacher migration the writer spoke to Ceylon Teachers Union’s General Secretary Joseph Stalin.
“Some teachers are leaving the country in terms of taking a holiday. Most of the teachers are leaving Sri Lanka by giving up on their careers. The government is not giving the allowances, enjoyed by other government workers, to teachers. We know that Sri Lanka is facing a huge economic crisis and people cannot afford their expenses. But the government workers aren’t receiving a sufficient salary and enough allowances. Some people are leaving the country by leaving their careers. We know that in the education sector there are about 40,000 vacancies for teachers. The other issue is that the government is not giving the appointments. The government attempted to give appointments to 26,000 graduates. But under an order issued by the Supreme Court they have stopped doing so. There is no proper methodology to fulfill those vacancies. The system is functioning despite so many vacancies and in-between that skilled teachers are leaving not only the jobs, but the country as well. The government should be responsible for this,” added Stalin.
Also he paid his attention to the shortage of teachers for subjects such as Science, English, Maths and ICT.
“They are going to enroll graduated teachers. But the problem here is that such trained teachers for subjects like the ones I mentioned are coming only from National Teacher Training Colleges. At present there is no other plan to train teachers. There should be a proper plan to train them. If the number of teacher migration increased the problem would widen. There is no alternate solution for this. The major crisis in the education sector is the lack of teachers. That is why parents are daily protesting on roads by requesting for teachers. The government isn’t able to provide appointments. Due to Covid 19 the education of students dropped down. Still we couldn’t recover from that. Still there is a delay in the exams. Repeatedly during a three-year period the education of Sri Lankan students has dropped down. Due to the shortage of teachers this problem is arising. We need solutions for these issues,” added Stalin.