Saturday, March 30, 2013

State of our education

As a teacher it gives me an immaculate thrill to hear our hon’ble education minister’s response on how the ministry’s prudent actions have culminated in the improvement of quality of education in the country. While I am pleased and at one with most of the points, there are still some areas that seem a little too confusing. Perhaps, thousands of others, especially our teachers, have felt the same.

I agree that the state of education in our country is good, if not better. But the satire evokes when we consider whether every stake holder sings the same hymn. There are still many who rate the state of our education far below. We must not be depressed by the lower ratings nor should we be too excited by the higher ones. We must always look far ahead from where we are. We have the responsibility to take the state of education in our country to ever newer heights. 

Whatever the rating be, it couldn’t have come at a better time as it gives us a basis to take stock of things.

An important element that determines the quality of education is the policies. The quality of education will rise or fall depending upon how applicable our well charted education policies are. It doesn’t really matter whether the policies are borrowed or home-grown. What is important is whether the policies are congruent with the local needs and sensibilities.

For instance, the policy that requires every Bhutanese child to be properly educated appears attractive on papers. But, such noble policies seem to sink without a trace when it comes to formulating effective programmes to meet the end. Schools must be provided with the right reading materials carefully chosen to benefit the students. The choice of the medium of instruction shifting back and forth between English and Dzongkha in teaching Bhutanese History is a case to be considered. Resources are the main concern in our schools, especially those that are located in far-flung areas. Lack of resources has sufficiently added to the deteriorating quality of education in our country.

Teachers have a great role to play in maintaining the quality of education. I agree that the quality of education cannot be better than the quality of teachers. Therefore, we must only recruit those people who are convinced that education is their calling.

Our Sherig Lyonpo revealed that there are also those who have stumbled into teaching by chance. This questions the applicability of our education policies. Why is the number teachers who are truly dedicated marginal? What policies have we framed to attract the best people in the profession so that the quality of education is improved? What remarkable reforms have we seen in the recent past to uplift the morale of teachers?

It is pleasing to hear about the in-service teacher-education master plan at the Centenary Institute of Education in Yonphula, Trashigang. Such plan does have a familiar ring. We are training and educating many of our teachers both within and without the country. In-service trainings without doubt cost our coffers dear, but its effect on the education system remains open to discussion. Prerogatives must reach those people who are truly deserving of them. Offering trainings to teachers just for the sake of training them on bases that are most often unreliable is much akin to forcing a horse to drink.

The educational reforms like infusing GNH values by building green schools in the country is by far one of the most sagacious ideas But for such well-intended policies to bear fruits, teachers who are the main players must be properly remunerated. What good will the written policies bring if the teachers who implement in the field are not committed enough? Whose responsibility is it to ensure that the teachers are given the rewards they merit?

We must not make guinea pigs of our schools and students for testing new teaching methods borrowed from outside without considering our needs and preferences. What has been successful elsewhere may not necessarily work here. We need to rethink our education policies and design appropriate curriculum for our schools. And above all, we need to stop good teachers from leaving. Let us not let the quality of our education deteriorate. We have just observed Sherig Century in pride. Let us not end the journey of a hundred years in bitter tears.


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