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By Sheila D. Amor

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (June 9, 1998 - The Saipan Tribune)---The recent study on attrition in the local education profession has listed poor working conditions, no support from the school administration and the lack of support from the central office as the top three reasons for quitting.

Both teachers who were planning to leave the profession and those who were not, cited these top three reasons.

Based on local records, about 23 percent of CNMI's teaching staff quit their jobs each year.

The Public School System spends more than $5 million on recruitment annually, with 60 percent of its new teachers coming from the mainland. "Attrition in the CNMI is a very costly matter," the study said.

Designed and conducted by the Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) in the spring of 1997, the study for Retention and Attrition of Pacific School Teachers and Administrators (RAPSTA) focused on elementary and secondary teachers and administrators. It was conducted to identify risk factors affecting educators in the CNMI and in the Pacific.

In the CNMI, of the 441 teacher surveys distributed, 332 were returned, or a 75 percent response rate. The five-page survey had three sections for data collection: demographics and absenteeism, stress and burnout ratings, and reasons for leaving the profession. Data were collected from April 1997 to June 1997 and were sent to PREL in Honolulu.

The two groups, potential leavers and non-leavers, gave no support from school administration the number one ranking, with an over 66 percent vote from each group. It was followed by no support from the central office and poor working conditions, which received an over 60 percent vote from each group.

Personal illness was the leading cause of a teacher's absence from school, recording two days of not performing the job. This was followed by vacations and meetings.

For both teachers and administrators, the study revealed similar patterns for those who would like to leave the profession. They have a lower sense of personal accomplishment, are more emotionally exhausted and feel depersonalized at work. "Thus, potential leavers appear to experience occupational burnout," it said.

Based on such findings, researchers have recommended that incoming CNMI teachers be given an in-depth orientation on the culture, people and practices as part of their induction process. In addition, resources are needed to develop a local pool of teachers, which will reduce the need to recruit teachers from the mainland.


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