Topic: Lessons from Bhutan
Topic in Syllabus: GS Paper 2: International Affairs
- Bhutan has recently announced a policy wherein Bhutan’s teachers, doctors and other medical staff will earn more than civil servants of corresponding grades.
- This is a novel move as no other country has accorded teachers and doctors such pride of place in its government service, both in terms of remuneration and symbolism.
About the policy
- The policy’s has been referred in Bhutan’s 12th Five Year Plan (2018-23), published by its Gross National Happiness Commission, the country’s highest policy-making body.
- The commission’s strategy is to achieve desired national outcomes through education. The strategy opens with the notation, “making teaching a profession of choice”. Therefore the proposal aims to achieve the country’s human developmental objectives.
- The decision also comes in the wake of high levels of teacher attrition. Clearly, the government has formulated the policy to put a stop to such fall in numbers of teachers.
- As per The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) there is distinct correlation between student outcomes in a country and the status that its teachers enjoy.
- Further already Bhutan spends about 7.5% of its GDP on education. The fiscal implications of the new salary structure are unclear now.
- OECD’s ‘Education at a Glance 2018’ report says that, “The quality of education can be a strong predictor of a country’s economic prosperity”.
Can India afford a similar policy?
- India currently spends about 3% of its GDP on education, accounting for about 10% of the Centre’s and States’ budgetary expenses and salaries of teachers and other staff constitute a large portion of this expenditure.
- The NITI Aayog in its report last year recommended that India raise this to 6% of GDP by 2022.
- Paying teachers significantly higher salaries may seem like a difficult task, but the Central and State governments could consider rationalising both teacher recruitment and allocation of funds to existing programmes.
- Some programmes may have outlived their purpose, while others could be better directed. In fact, improving accountability in the system could lead to reduction in cost.
- A World Bank study found that teacher absenteeism in India was nearly 24%, which costs the country about $1.5 billion annually.
- Absenteeism could be the result of many factors, including teachers taking up a second job or farming to boost incomes, providing parental or nursing care in the absence of support systems, or lacking motivation.
- Hence, the incentive of a desirable income with strong accountability, can help mitigate many ills that plague the system, free fiscal space and help meet important national developmental objectives.
- Further, implementing a policy may be easier in a smaller State such as Delhi.
- Education is a key focus area for the Delhi government; the State invests 26% of its annual budget in the sector (much more than the national average).
- The administration has also worked on improving teacher motivation as a strategy for better educational outcomes. The base has been set.
- Moreover, since the State is highly urban and well-connected, it would be easier to enforce accountability measures.
- No investment that enables an educated, healthy, responsible and happy community can be deemed too high by any society.
- Improving teacher status by offering top notch salaries to attract the best to the profession could be that revolutionary policy-step forward, which Bhutan has shown a willingness to take.
The quality of education can be a strong predictor of a country’s economic prosperity. Substantiate.