Part-Time Teachers’ Well-being in Urban Community Campuses: A Narrative Inquiry

Prologue

I am currently a faculty of English at QAA certified public campus situated in the district headquarter of Tanahun. I have worked there for over five years as a part-time teacher. I started my service at the campus in 2016 with two periods assigned, and then I have been working continuously. In 2016, when I was appointed to the campus, I was satisfied with the benefits offered by the campus since that was the initial phase of my career, and I did not have so much pressure from my family. Moreover, I was optimistic that the benefits, along with the payment made to me by the campus, would be revised logically. As I read them, I went sound in my deliveries for a couple of years, and students were satisfied. I always kept my head high and focused on my preparation and deliveries; as a result, more than 95% of students passed the exam in my paper. I was free from any anxiety though I had to spend many hours on preparation.

In recent years, most of the time, I have been passing through mental stress. Now it has been almost six years of my service at the campus, but I am paid the same with no additional benefits, and still, I am a part-time teacher. It has been challenging to sustain in the profession. I have been excessively anxious for a few years, and sometimes I imagine quitting my work. To free me from mental and professional deficiencies, I joined M. Phil. in 2020 A.D. Most of the time, I spend reading books to gain professional capital, but it does not work well as I have anxiety shaped by the unfair treatment made to the part-time teachers and other teachers at the campus. Except for that individual attempt, I have never witnessed any TPDs or other programs supporting teacher well-being. I do not feel comfortable in my profession and have been unable to concentrate on my deliveries. To make sustainable earnings, I have been taking ten periods daily, which is quite tough to maintain quality. Preparing the teaching force is a crucial concern of the government and concerned institutions worldwide (Gautam, 2016). Still, our teachers working in public campuses, especially part-time teachers, are ignored.

A teacher’s well-being refers to the state where the teacher experiences personal, professional fulfillment, satisfaction, purposefulness, and happiness (Acton & Glasgow, 2015). The student’s learning outcomes largely depend upon the teacher’s performance, and his well-being influences the teacher’s performance. Students’ learning outcome is at the core of the teacher’s work. Ryan & Deci (2011) define well-being as “open, engaged and healthy functioning.” A teacher’s well-being is a strength or power to energize teachers to work. His smiling and cheering face matters a lot in his performance. A teacher’s stress directly hinders students’ learning outcomes (Ramberg, Laftman, & Mordan, 2019). But the issue of teachers’ well-being is ignored by the concerned authorities. Educational actors, including policymakers, do not look serious about the subject. The condition of teachers’ well-being in Nepal is not pretty good, both in a rural and urban settings. The situation in a rural setting is tremendously critical than in an urban context. In my observation, permanent teachers working in community-based schools, especially school-level teachers, are slightly well supported by the government, so they are less angst-ridden compared to those teachers working in community campuses as part-time teachers. Several teachers working at the tertiary level in a public institution are very outsized, but the campuses leave out the issue of their well-being. Part-time teachers in public campuses are not open and well-functioning since they are mistreated. Benefits made to the part-time teachers in the public campus are personally manipulated. The policies of campus are running dysfunctional. They are entirely unsympathetic toward the ongoing sufferings of those teachers.

The current policies and practices look unsupportive to the part-time teachers working on public campuses. First, no ample research is done on teacher well-being out of the Kathmandu valley. If they are, they haven’t addressed the issue of teacher well-being working on higher levels, especially in public campuses. Hence, this paper aims to explore the problems of tertiary level teachers regarding their well-being and its influence on teachers’ and students’ academic performance. Part-time teachers working in the public campus are paid significantly less than full-time teachers and permanent teachers working at the same institution. Full-time teachers and permanent teachers within the institution are enjoying the good benefits. Part-time teachers are not provided any additional financial aid except their salary but are just made fun of. Part-time teachers at the public campus from all over the country must have gone through the same situation. Most of the public campuses in Nepal are running a profit-oriented mentality where the issues of teachers’ well-being are ignored. Teachers with the same duties and responsibilities in the public campus are treated individually. The salary and other benefits provided to them looks heavily imbalanced and unfair. Teachers having more than ten periods in a day for more than five years are still part-time teachers and are paid just a half to the full-timer and permanent teacher without other support, is not an injustice? Is it not intellectual exploitation? How can they supply their sound deliveries to satisfy their students in such a miserable condition? Hence, this paper aims to examine the narratives of some part-time teachers working in public campuses regarding the issue of their well-being.

Methods of the Study

This research is based on a qualitative research design under the interpretive paradigm. The interpretive paradigm is emphasized in this research to bring out tertiary teachers’ stories on their well-being. To explore the real-life experiences of those teachers, I employed Narrative Inquiry as a research methodology. I conducted online interview (Denzin& Lincoln, 2000) to get their narratives. Vyas Municipality from the district headquarter of Tanahun was purposively selected as a research site, and two part-time teachers working at the public campus in the urban setting of Tanahun are the research participants. Along with the data from the participants, this study further incorporates secondary materials such as books and journal articles.

Analysis and interpretation

Mental well-being

A healthy body only isn’t sufficient to stay alive in any profession, and a sound mind complements well-being. The excellent reciprocal interaction between body and mind is always most for professional delivery. The teaching profession requires a creative mind free from any mental stress. Teaching in a tertiary-level course is challenging, and it is impossible to sustain professionalism without a sound mind. Due to the growing stress in the profession, the number of teachers leaving work is increasing (Brunsting, Sreckovic, & Lane, 2014). Stress manifests in teachers and most prominently affects their sense of efficacy, job satisfaction, burnout, attrition, student engagement, and physical health (Shernoff, Mehta, Atkins, Torf, & Spencer, 2011).

As a higher education teacher, I observe that kind of stress myself. The day I enter the classroom free of stress, I see my students’ smiling faces, which satisfy me throughout the day. That satisfaction further inspires me to make classes come meaningful. But sometimes I don’t want to talk even for fifteen minutes if I am stressed. I feel a single forty-five minutes to be long enough. Generally, family issues, managing financial problems of a family, health issues, untimely payments, additional payments among the teachers having the same responsibility, and excessive workload make me stressed. One of my respondents, ’X,’ told me that he forgets everything unfair that goes with him until his salary is dispersed. Still, the day he learns about his salary deposited in his account, he goes suffocated. As he reported, his salary is just half of some other teachers though he completed 5/6years of his life in the institution (variations caused by the nature of appointment). Another respondent, ‘Y,’ responded that he feels he serves the institution free of cost. He said, “It is not a job but a voluntary service…”. Too low payment made to him by his campus makes him feel so. This situation sometimes made him forget what he was speaking to his students. The financial problem, according to him, destroys his mental and professional well-being.

Moreover, teaching a large heterogeneous group of learners, urban poverty, teacher preparation, and managing students’ hyperkinetic behavior make teachers stressed (Shernoff et al., 2011). Since he has to handle higher graders, a tertiary-level teacher often goes through this situation. Research conducted in national or international educational set up suggested lower learning outcomes resulting from teachers’ ill conditions.

Financial well-being

The financial issue comes first in teacher well-being. Most teachers working in the public campus as part-time teachers are stressed about their financial status. The amount paid to them looks insufficient and lower than that paid to secondary-level teachers. Permanent teachers working in the government schools are provided additional benefits as per the provision made by the government. The statistics suggest that the current basic salary for the secondary level first-class teacher is Rs. 47380. As per the financial provision of Tribhuvan University, the recent basic pay for an Assistant lecturer is Rs. 35500, which is lower than the salary of a primary level first-class teacher (Rs. 35990) (source: edusanjal.com). Mr. X, my respondent, said, “I have five periods in a day, excluding the day shift for grades 11 and 12, and I am paid just 25,000 per month. Still, the permanent teacher in the same campus is paid 44,000 for three periods excluding additional allowances…”. The data above shows a massive injustice for the part-time teachers in the public campus. Another part-time teacher from another public campus from the same district is paid just 4000 for one period.

The situation with the teachers working in the same institution is supposed to be more complicated regarding the well-being of teachers working there. They have to take 9/10 classes to earn equivalent to full-time and permanent teachers of the same campus with a basic period of 3. Due to this discriminatory attitude of the public campuses to ignore the contribution made by those teachers, they are stressed a lot. Both of my respondents plight fully revealed that they don’t get their salary on time; sometimes, they may stay penniless for 4/5 months. The Covid-19 pandemic made the situation more intricate since they didn’t get their salary for 7/8 months. First, the part-time teachers are less paid by the institution they work in, and then they aren’t paid on time, resulting in poor deliveries inside their classroom. Despite this poignant situation with the teachers, concerned authorities look indifferent toward the plight of teachers.

Professional well-being

I started my tertiary-level teaching career in 2016 A.D. at a public campus in Tanahun. Since I was a novice in the field of teaching at the tertiary level, I was not well competent in pedagogical skills. I desired to have some training to impart my delivery to my students. My campus organized a faculty development program, occasionally focusing on leadership development and the use of ICT, which would provide me solace. It has already been five years of working at a campus. Still, I have never experienced an attempt to enhance the professional development of a faculty from the government or the university except for the campus. Teachers’ professional competence—their professional knowledge, skills, beliefs, and motivation—is a critical predictor of teachers’ professional well-being and success (Laurmann & Konig 2016). Mr.’ X’ and Mr.’ Y’ never witnessed programs assisting in their professional development and well-being. Secondary Education Development Centre (SEDP), Distance Education Centre (DEC), Primary Teacher Training Centre (PTTC), and National Centre for Educational Development (NCED) are some government-funded programs to train teachers in Nepal. Besides them, Women Teacher Training (WTT) , On-Spot Training, Teacher Training Through Distance Learning, B-Level (Under SLC) Teacher Training, and Vocational Teacher Training Program are run by the government and non-government organizations. They all are confined to school-level teachers; instead, there are no special programs to train teachers from higher education (Awasthi, 2010). My respondent Mr. X  said,” I spent more than five years at my campus teaching for bachelor’s, but I do not know any programs run at the campus for our professional well-being…”. Mr. Y had quite a different experience regarding the teachers’ professional well-being. He said, “my campus occasionally offers some training on leadership development and the use of ICT but not on teaching skills and curricular issues…”. It suggests that tertiary teachers do not have access to professional development programs, so they do not feel professionally sound.

Teachers’ autonomy is practiced globally as a supportive tool for teachers’ professional well-being. Action Research (A.R.), Reflective Practice (R.P.), Teacher Research (T.R.), and Exploratory practice (E.P.) are practiced in the international educational market to assure teachers’ autonomy (Dikilitas & Griffiths, 2017). Recently, Tribhuvan University has initiated to adopt those innovations to develop teachers’ professionalism through teacher’s autonomy, but it is confined within the center; However, one of the public campuses of Tanahun has been encouraging its faculties to write a research article on current ongoing affairs related to their professional issues. Similarly, the culture of campus to sponsor the faculties (permanent) financially to gain higher education degrees with a paid study leave is another central effort made for teachers’ professional well-being. This internal support of a campus assists in acquiring professional skills and exploring existing problems with their classroom teachings. The campus makes financial assistance of five thousand for the faculties who write a paper. It is a magnificent effort made to enhance teachers’ professional well-being. But this kind of culture is not practiced in other institutions providing tertiary education.

Teacher’s well-being and students’ academic well-being

Many kinds of research and surveys made in the times of yore indicate that teacher well-being is essential to students’ well-being. If the teacher goes inside the classroom with a stressed mind, it doesn’t deliver anything meaningful to the students. A survey by Wellbeing Australia (December 2011) found that of 466 respondents, 85.9 percent strongly agreed. A further 12.1 per cent agreed that a focus on student well-being enhanced an effective learning environment and 74.5 per cent strongly agreed. An additional 21.9 percent agreed that focusing on teacher well-being promotes student well-being. 73.9 percent of respondents were teachers, of whom 20.5 percent were school principals (Roffey, 2012). It reveals that the issue of teacher well-being needs to be considered for students’ sound learning outcomes.

Hwang et al. (2017) write that students’ learning outcomes depend upon the teachers well-being, so teachers’ intervention is suggested to provide to teachers to enhance their well-being. There are large numbers of teachers working as part-time teachers in Nepal, and they are suffering from the issue of their well-being. Most of them are tormented by their financial problems. Their financial satisfaction determines mental and professional soundness. If the financial crisis haunts one, no professional development program works to keep him strong in his profession. Mr. X narrates, “Throughout the month, I forget everything unfair that goes with me, and I find myself focused in my profession. I find my classes strong enough, and my students look satisfied with my deliveries. But for a few days after I get the message of my salary deposited into my account makes me unpleased, and I lose my professional control”. He further says it is the financial issue that influences his mental well-being and professional well-being. As a part-time teacher, he is made a complete payment just for ten months in a year and paid one-period equivalent for two months. It means he has been paid just Rs. 5000 each for the last two months, which he opines is unjustifiable. These two months are particular for students since they are provided revision classes at that time, but he could not make any meaningful contribution to his students. And as a result, unexpected students failed his paper. It shows that it is essential to address part-time teachers’ issues regarding their financial well-being to keep teachers free from mental and professional deficiencies and students’ good performance.

Conclusion

The teachers working in community campuses of Nepal as part-time faculty are anguished from several aspects of their well-being. Teachers working in the community campuses as part-time teachers experience very rare personal and professional fulfillment, satisfaction, purposefulness, and happiness. Untimely payment, variation in payments among teachers having the same responsibility, excessive workload, and teacher preparation made them stressful. Teachers working in community campuses as part-time teachers are segregated from the offerings made to the full-time and permanent teachers within the same campus. Even after many years of service in the institution, they are not promoted. They have been working with minimal internal support from the campus since no meaningful attempts have been made for their professional development. Mentally, financially, and professionally those teachers are not sound, and as a result, the student’s learning outcome has been degraded. To ensure the quality of education, discriminatory attitudes to look at the part-time teacher should be corrected. 

References

Acton, R. & Glasgow, P. (2015). Teacher well-being in neoliberal contexts: A review of the literature. Australian Journal of Teacher Education

Awasthi, J. R. (2010). Teacher education with special reference to English language teaching in Nepal. Journal of NELTA.

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Ryan R.M., Deci E.L. (2011) A self-determination theory perspective on social, institutional, cultural, and economic supports for autonomy and their importance for well-being. Cross-Cultural Advancements in Positive Psychology, vol 1.Springer, Dordrecht.

Ramberg, j., laftman, s. B., & mordan, t. A. (2019). Teacher stress and students’ school well-being: the case of upper secondary schools in Stockholm. Scandinavian journal of educational research .

Roffey, s. (2012). child wellbeing-teacher well-being; two sides of the same coin? education and child psychology , 8.

Shernoff, E.S., Mehta, T.G., Atkins, M.S., Torf, R., & Spencer, L. (2011). A qualitative study of the sources and impact of stress among urban teachers. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227324157_A_Qualitative_Study_of_the_Sources_and_Impact_of_Stress_Among_Urban_Teachers/link/09e4150c8ac8a074c3000000/download

Author’s Bio: Bimal Khatri is a lecturer of  Aadikavi Bhanubhakta Campus, Damauli, Tanahun since last six years. He is currently having M.Phil in ELE in Kathmandu University. Moreover, he is a life member of NELTA Tanahun. He is currently working on the issue of inclusion and equity in English Language Teaching in Nepal. He has published one article in peer reviewed journal of Aadikavi Bhanubhakta Campus in 2020. He can be reached at khatri.bimal05@gmail.com, Bimal.khatri@aadikavicampus.edu.np.

 

 

 

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