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Staff Retention Staff Attrition

Madhulika Sharma

Madhulika Sharma

VP. Amnora School

Mrs. Madhulika Sharma has 23 years of experience in Education field. She was last associated with Woodridge High- Aurangabad as Vice Principal. Prior to Woodridge, she was associated with Nath Valley School-Aurangabad, as senior supervisor and Activity coordinator at Army School in Assam. Her hobbies are travelling, reading historical literature and period drama, and listening to soulful music.

Retention: Key to Resurrection of School Educational System

Teaching is a multi-faceted profession with several roles being delivered by a single person A teacher of today is an organizer, manager, material developer, friend, learning facilitator, mentor, role model, al: rolled into one . The truth is teachers are a lot more than what they are acknowledged to be. As the saying goes Once a teacher, always a teacher”. Quite literally, this has been true of the teaching profession for the past several decades. However the past decade or so has witnessed a sharp increase in the percentage of teachers at a given level of education leaving the profession in a given school year.

Teacher Turnover colloquially called Teacher attrition has become a global epidemic plaguing the school education sector. It is a perennial problem receiving heightened attention due to its intensity, complexity, and spread. Teachers are the most important constant variable across differing education models and policies across countries and resultantly attrition thus has been one of the most concerning issues for the stakeholders.Finland with its ‘trust through professionalism’ focus also experiences retention and attrition issues. Even the heavily populated China struggles to retain qualified teachers in its rural schools.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), ‘teaching is increasingly … a career of “movement in and out” and the “out” may be permanent’. The dominos effect of teacher attrition over the past four years has forced international researchers and industry scholars to study the visible and low lying dormant effects of teacher attrition. To understand the complete length and breadth of the situation it is important to ascertain the contextual meaning of attrition and how it differs from turnover.

In the general sense of the word Attrition occurs when an employee retires or when the employer eliminates the position. The big difference between the two is that when turnover occurs, the company seeks someone to replace the employee. To understand this better three categories: stayers, movers, and leavers. Stayers are teachers who were teaching in the same school in the current school year as in the base year. Movers are teachers who were still teaching in the current school year, but who had moved to a different school. And the leavers, are teachers who left the profession entirely.

The prima facie reason for turnover in any industry or field on an individual level is the want for better financial and professional opportunities. In developing countries like India organizations have a strong foothold in the educational sector from the purview of both academia and business profitability.

Any financial growth is a boon for an employee. Teachers are often credited to be one of the most hardworking professionals but sadly also proportionately poorly paid. On the basis of qualifications and training, teachers are equally, if not more talented than individuals on the same level in other market sectors. Despite salaries having been improved in the recent years, the increase is not enough to pacify the justified dissatisfaction. The education industry itself has become a hot pot of volatility and budding competition.Schools under the umbrellas of deep pocketed sources also poach well trained teachers leading to an increase in attrition in schools who are relatively underfunded.

Financial prospects lure the teachers in to switching roles, thus a pay uplift coupled with professional growth is a recipe for attrition. At the outset turnover rates are highest for teachers of core subjects: science, technology, English and Math (STEM). Science and maths teachers have the highest rates of leaving the profession and of moving schools, although they are only slightly higher than English and technology teachers. The obvious reason behind this glaring statistic is the imbalanced ratio of demand and supply in terms of teachers trained to teach STEM subjects. Teachers specializing in these subjects are often privy to higher positions and better pay packets and due to the required qualification, and the professionals who fulfill the requirements are not enough.

The Corporate sector presents many options to Science, math and IT Graduates and these opportunities are preferred over the education sector. Several Corporate entities and multi educational businesses employe language teachers at better terms than schools are able to offer. Apart from financial and professional incentives and considerations, teachers are faced with a myriad of obstacles which push them to make a career switch. Many fresher in the field are unaware and unprepared to meet the tasks of the teaching profession. It is no secret that teaching is not a classroom restricted profession. They have a constant tripartite commitment towards the students, the school administration and the parents. Navigating through changing curriculums, disciplining a large number of students in a classroom and facing the challenges of parent management and interaction are often too overburdening for new and inexperienced teachers to keep them entrenched in the profession.

Other times, turnover is inevitable. Personal reasons for attrition are a reality in any industry. Some teachers discontinue working altogether and others only use the current role as a step up to another career opportunity that they have had a bird’s view for since the beginning of their careers. In these situations any mitigating solutions fall short and attrition is bound to happen. Teachers are the wheels of any educational institution and for it to run soundly it is important that there is harmony between the institution and the teachers on an individual level as well. High rates of turnover leads to the destabilization in the school in a lot of ways. Chronic teacher and staff turnover can negatively affect professional development, class size, scheduling, curriculum planning, collegiality, and a variety of other factors, adding a significant degree of chaos and complexity to schoolwide operations and potentially harming student learning across classrooms and teachers.For students, it is difficult to adapt to varied teaching styles and be comfortable with new teachers frequently. Turnover directly jeopardizes their educational experience.

From a business perspective, there is no doubt that teacher turnover also has a financial cost. Employing a new teacher usually comes with an additional salary upgrade along with other logistical adjustments including hours spent training and orientating the new staff.

One peculiar situation where turnover has a positive outcome for the school is when based on the performance review of the staff the underachieving members are let go and the effective staff is appropriately retained. It is pertinent to note that the school administration has to weigh the option of retaining a teacher against her performance and value addition to the school. If the teacher is unable to meet the needs of the school then it is better for the administration to terminate the employment of the teacher. Despite this positive outcome it is true that there are structural constraints that attrition and turnover pases. The school as a team is one thinking unit and must run like a single body with a single mind. The brand of practices and innovation is often unique to itself and turnover and attrition causes a kink to the system. Either there is a void created in the system or there is a new addition. In either case working and clock able hours are lost adapting and adjusting to the new members and almost every time it goes through an undeniable change.

While the negative impacts associated with attrition and turnover are numerous and daunting there are certain strategies which can help avoid as well as mitigate the problem. A collaborative adoption of sociological and business related human resource planning strategies can help keep the general morale positive and pro retention. irst, It is the blunt truth that salaries of teachers falls at the tail end of the financial priorities of institutions. In a country like India, where  Fee problems and corporate branding of educational institutions has garnered public attention and concern, paying the teachers sufficiently has got lost in the shuffle. The matter of the fact however is that, unless there is a respectable offer in terms of the market valuation and inflation trends of the country, attrition and turnover cannot be avoided. Where there is an actual impossibility of offering better pay packets , incentivization and benefits are a unique way of providing teachers with satisfactory terms. Tuition fee waivers for wards, Insurance Packages, Travel allowances and Reasonable number and frequency of paid vacation days are some important benefits which can prove effective.

Monetary considerations today are only part of favorable employment checklists.  A cohesive, productive and positive working environment contributes majorly towards satisfaction of the teachers. Good amount of facilities to innovate and express and execute ideas and basic resources make  working environments attractive to teachers .

In a school there should also be achievable leadership opportunities. Such Opportunities should be of key management or institutional importance motivating the teachers to strive for them.

Further it is important to have a flexible and open working environment where teachers are able to communicate professionally yet freely in order to form their own peer relationships resulting in strong supportive structures promoting partnership and camaraderie amongst the staff. The leadership of the school should also be sufficiently approachable and communicative in order to build trust and loyalty with the staff.