Monday, January 30, 2012

When youth need extra guidance

Photo Courtesy: Internet
The Bhutan Higher Secondary Examination Certificate (BHSEC-class XII) results are declared, and online application for admission into tertiary education programmes will start soon. For our youth, it is the crucial turning point in their life – the first step towards their career.

But, have our students got sufficient career counselling at the schools or in any other place? For young students, the transition is often too confusing to pursue beautiful dreams, let alone accomplish them. There is every possibility that they will go in the wrong direction either on their own or under the influence of their friends.

Students, particularly those from disadvantaged family background, seem to want to get themselves employed immediately instead of continuing their studies. For instance, some students want to get employed despite excellent marks. It will surely be a matter of regret in the near future. Their lives could be spoilt by a single mistaken step.

Irrespective of their family, social or cultural background, all students ought to have the best of best in their life. So, it is vital for the authorities concerned to explain to them advantages of one course over another or distinct features of a particular course ahead of time. When they fulfill the required criteria for most of the courses offered by the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB), most students are left in a dilemma.

RUB deserves a round of applause for launching online application system from 2008 whose benefits are immeasurable. Before, all high school graduates had to set off to Thimphu for the orientation programme, which would last for at least a week. Lucky students, who secured good marks, would find admission soon, but those with low marks had to wait in the chilly winter wind of Thimphu indefinitely only to be disappointed in the end. Today, with the online application system, students can apply from anywhere within a short period of time.

However, online application system seems to be rather complicated, at least for Arts and Commerce students, who lack even basic computer knowledge. And access to internet is another challenge for many students who live away from the towns.

A more serious problem will be for students who have passed Bhutan Certificate of Secondary Examination (BCSE-class X). They are immature both mentally and physically, so it is difficult for them to make the right decisions for their future. Choosing the right discipline of study in class XI is important for one’s career. This is the time when they need extra support and guidance. Parents, teachers and, of course student themselves, should know their ability in each subject and ambitions before choosing a stream.

By and large, ones who have secured good marks are mostly on a safer side, but unlucky ones are those whose marks do not measure up to requirements for higher studies. Mental and physical support is very important for the unhappy and lost lot. However, in our society, everyone points finger at them and scold them for being unsuccessful, which does not help anyone. Everybody needs to pay much more attention to the lost youth who could fall victim to social ills like robbery and suicide.

I hope that the authorities concerned will provide sufficient career counselling to our future citizens at the right time in the right place. I am optimistic that with the development in technology, soon there will be an online application system to apply for every study fields so that pursuing higher education becomes easier for our youth.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Shangri-La’s doomed citizens

Changala (left) and Chudrula in Chamkhar
Photo Courtesy: Bhutanobserver 
With our distinctive developmental philosophy of GNH (Gross National Happiness), Bhutan is more known as the Land of Happiness. No wonder, best part of Bhutanese people enjoy tremendous contentment. Indeed, this is the underlying ground for considering Bhutan the last Shangri-La. And we are the privileged deities who enjoy the fullest of happiness.

However, undeniably, there are still lots of lowly deities on the Land of Happiness. Just think of a Bhutanese town free of beggars! It is very rare, I guess. Beggars are a common sight in most Bhutanese towns, showing the other side of our GNH country. Even more disgraceful is to see such vulnerable people ever-increasing with each passing day.

What seems common amongst Bhutanese beggars is that most of them are elderly folks who have been or are likely to be abandoned by their children and relatives. Shouldn’t it be difficult for us to accept such unforgiving things happening in the country whose roots lay deep in the great tenets of Buddhism! Looks like we are entering into a new phase in our development journey where children abandon their own parents. But then, looking rationally, I am not taken aback by such practice for many factors contribute to alienate one’s elders.

For example, rural to urban migration has become rampant in the recent years. For the youths who have been in the schools for decades, the prospect of going back to their communities is not appealing. Moreover, there are better amenities, including employment opportunities, in urban areas. In such state rural to urban migration is not seen as atypical. In fact, it is powerfully enforced by the situation.

With much sadness, I am talking about old age homes here. There were days when we thought a country like Bhutan would never need old age homes. Yet, the need today is rather dire. Our distinctive culture and religion have successfully instilled a discipline of loving heart in all Bhutanese. That’s why family values must be preserved and protected.

However, the need for safer home for underprivileged people, which is something more than the old age home, has become burning issue in Bhutan. There are many senior citizens who don’t have any children or relatives to look after them. Moreover, abandoned handicapped (mentally and physically challenged) people from all walks of life are increasingly seen across the country. Begging is the only option left for them, but the situation will be worse when they become too old to even beg. When one’s legs grow heavy and hands feeble, it will be worthless to own all the riches of the world. What one would long for at such times is a helping hand and this is what old age homes can provide to the destitute.

The downside of such a development is that individuals may intentionally hurt their aged relatives or abandon them so that they are taken care of by homes. There are chances the family values will suffer in the long run given that we are today adopting (and aping as well) more Western mores. What is important is that we must have laws to administer such homes and their occupants.

Today, we are proud of being citizens of the country that propounded GNH. But, every so often it seems we are overlooking some important issues that are directly or indirectly related to human happiness. Let’s prioritize elderly people and make their last days meaningful. Maybe then we would have moved a step closer to the ideal of Shangri-La.
(Contributed to Bhutanobserver, January 27, 2012)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Beauty of Teaching

If you have a strong respect for our sublime religion and benevolent kings, what could be better way of serving the country than becoming a teacher? Apart from taking up one of the noblest professions anywhere in the world, one can help ease the teacher shortage in the country. If you join the world of teaching with utmost enthusiasm and commitment, you can make a great difference to our struggling education system.

Often, people misunderstand teaching as a profession that requires one to harshly dominate over children, which leads to erosion of one’s basic human goodness. Some people think that teaching something that contradicts one’s religion is a sin. But from the Buddhist point of view, teaching anything with good intention is considered a virtuous act. Imparting knowledge is considered the greatest form of alms-giving.

Working with young children is always linked to some sort of conflict, which ultimately leads to stress. But we need to be patient.

Our compassionate kings and the government are always concerned about today’s youth. For instance, our fourth Druk Gyalpo has said, over and over again, that the future of Bhutan lies in the hands of our youth. The future of our youth lies in the hands of our teachers. Such is the importance of the teacher’s responsibility.

The teaching profession makes an immense contribution to the country’s progress. The teacher has a unique opportunity to serve the tsawasum. I may sound overtly philosophical, but teaching gives one the greatest chance of accumulating spiritual virtues.

The stereotypical mindset of our people is that teaching is a lowly job. This mindset not only discourages our youth to take up the teaching profession, but also diminishes the self-esteem of our teachers across the country.

On the contrary, teaching is considered the most important profession all around the world. This is apparent because more than 100 countries around the world observe the World Teachers’ Day on September 5. Here in Bhutan, the day is fortunately observed on the birth anniversary of the third Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the father of modern Bhutan.

Furthermore, everything related to teaching is considered important in Bhutan. Teachers are important – we observe Teachers’ Day. Teachers’ primary responsibility is important – we observe National Education Day. Teachers’ primary focus is important – we observe Children’s Day.

However, unmindful of all the sublime attributes teachers are associated with, some of our teachers keep demanding more incentives, rewards and respect. I think teachers have enough incentives and rewards in the significance of the profession itself. The name lopen should inspire us to discharge our duties without rewards in mind. If teaching is measured in monetary terms, teachers deserve all the riches of the world. But where do we put an end to our demands and begin to do our job whole-heartedly?

Teachers often have extra responsibilities like lesson planning and preparing for predictable queries from students. They demand hard work and sacrifice of leisure time. But that’s part of the demanding and responsible profession called teaching.

Today, qualifications, aptitude and experience are driving forces in anyone’s career. And the teaching profession offers them all in abundance. Someone has rightly said that teaching once is equal to learning twice. The more one teaches others, the more one learns. For a teacher, everyday is a learning opportunity. This is one of the biggest benefits of being a teacher.

The introduction of BCSE-BEd Graduate Examination has become a fear factor for our youth who want to take up teaching. But this is going to help the quality of education in the country in the long run. The quality of education should begin from our teachers. Lack of competent and enthusiastic teachers could be the main reason for the perceived decline in the quality of education in Bhutan. Examinations and the screening process will prepare trainees to be good teachers.

The beauty of teaching today seems to be hidden in the half-hearted performance. One has to work hard to feel the real fun and excitement of it. Only a teacher who teaches with commitment and enthusiasm will experience its real flavour. Welcome to the world of teaching!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Enduring Legacy from 2011

One of the most valuable achievements that I have pulled off in the gone year 2011 was for being able to register myself in several online writing groups. Writers Association of Bhutan (WAB), Blogyul, TOB-DEN, United Nations of Blogger, and Blog are the prominent platform where the aspiring writers can share their works without restraint.

When I go through my old notebooks, it evidently summons up my genuine interest in writing even as a child. Every available space of my books was found with some plain sketches and scribbles which are truly artistic. Some emotively illustrates my emotion and some holds strong voice for some rampant social issues of the times like corporal punishment. However, regardless of its innocent wit and wisdom, it remained unpublished forever.  

In the recent years, I use to write short-stories, essays and opinions for print media. You may regard me as a little egotistical, but for me there is no better motivation than to see my piece going published. The only discouraging part in doing so is that, when series of my contributions goes unpublished. Sometimes, the disparity of genre (contribution and space) also obstructs me to write. Thus, I almost laid down my arms for my hobby.

Opportunely, last year I came across the inspiring association WAB. Initially Writers Association of Bhutan (WAB) started as a dream of one man who felt the need of a national organization to serve the interests of Bhutanese writers. At the moment it serves as a platform where aspiring Bhutanese writers can share their work. I immediately got registered and started contributing to it. It really helped me to reclaim my positive hobby. 

Soon, I was aware of blog and blogging. A blog (a blend of the term web log) is a type of website or part of a website supposed to be updated with new content from time to time. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.

Before I completely pierced myself into the blogging bustle, I have read several posts of popular Bhutanese bloggers. Their striking blogs successfully inspired me to create my blog. Thus, in July 2011, my blog was born with the initial name as Sangay Phuntsho’s Blog. When more and more of my unspoken thoughts went into it, I felt to change my blog’s name to My Unspoken Thoughts. This name remained for roughly a couple of weeks, but yet again I decided to change the name to My Open Diary, because all the entries are either what I do or how I feel. It is just like filling up the diary but openly. 

Subsequently, I have been added in Blogyul Group in facebook where I can share my writings amongst the birds of same feather. Today, I often visit the Blogyul Blog. Blogyul aspires to give wings to our imagination, limps to our thoughts, light to our ignorance and to let the whole journey of blogging, and writing be a part of greater societal benefit, if not the greater self-discovery. Reading and writing with all aspiring writers is the best way of learning. 

TOB-DEN – a hub for Bhutanese teachers and for children is a Blog managed by passionate Bhutanese teacher, dedicated to the children of Bhutan. Whenever I have burning desire to share something pertinent to education system, I choose this platform. As a (to-be) teacher, I often visit TOB-DEN to understand more about Bhutanese Education System.    

Most recently, with the introduction by Mrs. Cynthia Pricillia I have also registered for United Nations of Blogger. United Nations of Blogger was built in 26th of November 2011. This organizations made by Aditya Bhaskara was to unite all blogger lovers around the world never mind they're newbie or pro level. I have already reading and shared some of my favorite articles here as well, with much anticipation to learn.   

As of now, with my mere 36 post, my blog has been viewed 2607 times. I have 26 regular followers with friends on facebook and other groups, who constantly read, comment and inspire me always. My honest resolution for this New Year is to read and write even more.