Sunday, November 5, 2017

Volunteer teachers issue solutions sought

By:  Somsack Pongkhao, Vientiane Times, October 23, 2017

The Ministry of Education and Sports has committed to taking recommendations proposed by National Assembly members into account to better address chronic issues surrounding the nation’s volunteer teachers.

Currently, there are around 16,000 volunteer teachers nationwide who are hoping for the chance for permanent employment.

These teachers are volunteering their efforts with the hope of getting on the pathway to being promoted to become employed as civil servant educators in schools nationwide.

However, the government’s employment quota granted for this sector remains limited, leading to louder complaints arising particularly among those who have served as volunteers for some 4-5 years.

NA member Ms Vanpheng Keonakhone made a recommendation to the ministry during a question-and-answer session held as part of the NA’s ongoing session on Friday.

She said the ministry should not continue to accept new volunteers but instead encourage new graduates to be volunteers themselves at various organisations.

After becoming unpaid assistants for 2-3 years, they could re-apply for a civil-service exam.
Only those candidates who met requirements such as a demonstrated love of teaching, adequate knowledge and capacity, diligence and honesty ought to be accepted, she said.

Another NA member said the civil-service entrance exams held in the past years might not be suitable for those who have been volunteers 4-5 years given that those exams also allowed those candidates who had just served as a volunteer for 1-2 years.

The problem was compounded as many 1-2-years volunteers had passed the exam and become new government officials.

The NA member recommended that 4-5 year volunteers should be given priority in the process to avoid complaints and appearance of loopholes. Minister of Education and Sports Ms Sengdeuane Lachanthaboun committed to following up on such suggestions.

“We will take your recommendations into account and propose it to the government about measures to address the issue of volunteer teachers.” She said it was a challenge to find balance in teacher recruitment considering the constraints.

“Although many are 1-2-years volunteers, they are excellent teachers who know both English language and computer skills.

“We want to keep the excellent teachers. If we take only those who have volunteered for 4-5 years, we might be able to not retain the best teachers who have highest skills, knowledge and capacity.”

Ms Sengdeuane stressed that even though some had served as unpaid teachers for 4-5 years, they would not be accepted if the subjects they taught were not in need at schools. Ms Sengdeuane described challenges faced by the ministry to supply sufficient teachers to meet the needs of society, saying that the growth in the quota for state-employed teachers was small (about 2,000 people per year). She said the number of teachers resigning to work in other sectors or take early retirement was increasing.

According to the Ministry of Education and Sports, about 4,000 of its civil servants either take aged retirement or become deceased in any given year.

In 2017, over 2,000 teachers moved to work in other sectors or requested early retirement.
She said the ministry would conduct surveys to identify the exact number of volunteer teachers, provinces and the subjects areas with the greatest need before seeking solutions to the problems.

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