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Exodus from teacher service

2013 Jul 15

By Nadia Fazlulhaq

A growing trend of teachers retiring prematurely from service and opting for private, international schools and even applying for overseas jobs is affecting the quality of education, according to teachers and unions representing them. Of the 217,000 state-sector teachers in the country, about 100,000 had not received promotions that were overdue, Ceylon Teacher Union’s Secretary Joseph Stalin charged.

“Female teachers are allowed to retire when they reach 50 or have completed 20 years of service. Many teachers are leaving the profession as they do not see future prospects in the state service.They are the cream, with years of experience and knowing the best methods of teaching,” Mr. Stalin said.

He said about 2,000 teachers from Class I and II sat for the Principals Service exams in 1996, but only 395 were recruited although there was still a shortage of about 1,000 principals island-wide. “Some teachers receive letters of appointment as principals after they have retired. Instead of giving military ranks, the Government should consider giving these overdue promotions.

“There is no proper transfer scheme or placements. Some teachers remain in rural areas for many years and are dissatisfied with the work. With long overdue promotions, they have lost hope on pay hikes and other benefits,” he said.

Teacher Services Union’s General Secretary Mahinda Jayasinghe said there had been few if any promotions since December 31, 2010.
He said the teacher service was introduced in 1994 but those who joined the administrative service were holding higher positions while teachers do not see a career growth.

“Teachers with talent opt for private schools and international schools. This is causing the education quality in Government schools to diminish. The state also spends a considerable sum to train these teachers in training colleges. They have to sign a Rs. 500,000 bond when joining these colleges. All this training at the end will not benefit the Government school students,” he said.

Mr. Jayasinghe also said the move to annul the 2010/38 circular issued to resolve irregularities in granting promotions to teachers, had made teachers more disappointed as they had no way of resolving issues related to promotions. Dr. Harsha Alles, President of ‘International Schools Sri Lanka’, said most international schools had a mix of teachers who had prematurely retired from government teacher service, retired teachers and graduates.

“Teaching in a private or international school is now considered a prestigious career. Among the reasons they join is the career growth, better working environments, salary and promotions, learning opportunities and no transfer scheme,” he said.
Manel Perera, a government service English teacher for 27 years with a Masters in English said she had offers from international schools with high salaries.

“After about 30 years of experience, I receive about Rs.30,000. But international schools offer salary scales starting at Rs. 40,000. The Government should encourage teachers with promotions and more training or the education levels will fall in another five years,” she said.

Education Minister Bandula Guneawardena said that promotion exams were not held since 2007 due to court cases filed by teacher unions and that plans were underway to give promotions to teachers on an annual basis.

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