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An education roadmap for the 21st century

The Education Reform document will outline the challenges and issues faced, aspirations and potentials of the way forward for education in line with the Royal Kasho.

By Chimi Wangmo

Drawing inspiration from the Royal Kasho, Education Minister Jai Bir Rai during the ongoing parliamentary session said the ministry has developed the Education Roadmap for the 21st century which is about 80 per cent complete.

Lyonpo shared this during the question hour session at the National Assembly this week.

The roadmap is a visionary document that will take care of reforms like education transformation, curriculum and ICT among others.

The education minister said the Education Reform document will outline the challenges and issues faced, aspirations and potentials of the way forward for education in line with the Royal Kasho.

Lyonpo JB Rai said one of the most important things we need is the Education Roadmap as it will be a valuable asset to produce potential citizens. He added the ministrystarted developing the road map towards the end of 2019 and itโ€™s about 80 per cent complete now.

โ€œWe have a few consultations left which we will carry out soon,โ€ said the education minister.

In addition, the education minister said the ministry in collaboration with the Royal Education Council, has revised the school curriculum to the New Normal Curriculum. He said the volume of the usual school curriculum has been reduced to 65 per cent in the new normal curriculum focusing on the core and essential goals.

โ€œThe ministry also started the implementation of the Bhutan Baccalaureate developed at the Royal Academy at Pangbisa in Paro. The Bhutan Baccalaureate aims to do more than other curricula. It is expected to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed,โ€ Lyonpo said.

The education minister claimed that Phase-I, itโ€™s being piloted in Dechenchholing Higher Secondary School and Wangbama Central School for the last three months this academic year. It is stated that in Phase-II, the ministry in collaboration with the Royal Academy will roll out in 20 schools in each dzongkhag in the next academic year.

Further, as preparation for this, in July this year, principals and two teachers from every 20 schools are planned to undergo a two-week programme orientation and capacity development on Bhutan Baccalaureate and designing the roadmap for transitioning in the respective schools.

Similarly, in the third week of July this year, 66 new teachers will go through a six-month Diploma programme. In addition, starting January next year, Dzongkhag and thromde education officers and two additional teachers will attend the programme at the Royal Academy.

The Royal Kasho given on education reform decrees that a time-bound council for education be established to prepare a visionary and workable roadmap for the 21st century.

Addressing principal and teacher shortages

In a most welcome development, the Education Minister also informed that more than 30 principals will be deployed to the schools across the country with over a hundred students.

He informed that the recruitment of substitute teachers for voluntary resignation, death, and contract termination during the academic session without waiting for a regular appointment has been approved by the Royal Civil Service Commission.

According to MP Choki Gyeltshen, who had raised the issue of teachers and principals shortages in schools during the question-answer session of the National Assembly, the quality of education is compromised by the shortages of teachers and principals in many schools across the country.

He said all parents want quality education for their children however many schools donโ€™t even have a principal. Similarly, there is a teacher shortage in many schools and there is no way of achieving quality education without enough teachers.

Education Minister Jai Bir Rai said officiating principals, in schools where there are no principals, are shouldering the responsibilities commendably. Lyonpo said the ministry is aware of this and will soon address the issue.

He said the RCSC in collaboration with Education Ministry is still going through the recruitment process and hopeful that the ministry can send 33 principals to the schools by July.

โ€œWe have sent 321 B.Ed graduates from Samtse and Paro College. By July we will have 193 PGDE graduates. For those who have gone on EOL and maternity leave; for time being we will recruit teachers on consolidated contact,โ€ the education minister said.

Lyonpo said one of the reasons for the teacher shortage is because of bringing down the age criteria of PP admission from six years of age to five. The increase in enrollment has burdened the teacher-student ratio triggering teacher shortage.

Meanwhile, the National Budget for the financial year 2021-2022 has allocated a separate budget of Nu 336 M recurrent expenditure for school stationery.

The Economic and Finance Committee of the National Assembly had recommended the government to dedicate the recurrent budget as a capital budget and be regulated strictly for the said purpose only.

The recommendation however was not very well received by most members of the parliament (MP). MPs said the schools should have the authority to use the budget allocated for stationery as per their need.

Haa- Sombaykha MP, Dorjee Wangmo, said not every student require stationery from schools and that it should be given just to students whose parents are not at all able to afford it.

โ€œGovernment should identify those students. One area where the government can use this fund is in rural schools where teachers are not enough. There are no proper facilities for teachers in the rural area and for them to have passion, they could be given laptops and projector from this fund,โ€ said.

Similarly the Drukjeygang Tseza MP, Jurmi Wangchuk, and Tshewang Lhamo, the Bongo Chapchha MP also reiterated that the discretion to use the budget should be kept with the school authorities as they best know their own requirements and for their own optimal usage.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that the committeeโ€™s recommendation to convert the recurrent to capital is against the constitution.

He said the education ministry has come up with a new curriculum for the new normal amid the pandemic. He added the education minister also said that coding has already started in two schools and other schools are included too. So with this, TV sets and IT equipment are required.

โ€œThe budget should be kept as recurrent and the flexibility to use as per the need of the curriculum should be given to schools and dzongkhags,โ€ finance minister said.

Lyonpo Namgay added that it is against the law when the Finance Ministry give block grant to dzongkhags and Thromdes, the ministry also send them object code as they canโ€™t use it as per their need.

โ€œOur deliberation here is making it seem like we canโ€™t trust the principal of the school, the Dzongdas and the Dzongkhag Administration, and Thromde Administration,โ€ said Finance Minister Namgay Tshering.

The Committee in the end asked if the government could at least notify dzongkhags and gewogs to use the budget allocated solely for the said purpose.

โ€œWe respect that the recurrent budget canโ€™t be changed into capital. But the committee still has a concern about it. It is not that we canโ€™t trust people in gewogs and schools. But when the fund reachesDzongkhags, there are so many activities in Dzongkhag and there are chances they might use it from this fund. So the education ministry could send out a separate circular to all that the Nu 336 M be used solely for stationery.โ€ said Kinley Wangchuk, the Chairperson of the Economic and Finance Committee.

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