Male Iron Rat Year

… the pandemic forced the sector to embrace a digital mode of teaching 

Yangchen C Rinzin

The year began with preparation to digitise classrooms through the Digital Education Flagship. The pandemic not only disrupted its implementation but also hit the education sector hard in the year of the Rat.

No one – the government, education ministry, schools and teachers – were prepared how to educate during a pandemic. The education sector could have been the busiest ministry apart from health ministry responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Students missed a lot of lessons. The importance of e-Learning was recognised.

The sector, however, quickly managed to embrace a digital mode of teaching and learning, which was also much talked about mode. Had it not been for the pandemic, it would have taken decades to adopt it.

As soon as schools closed in March after an American tourist tested positive for Covid-19, the education ministry launched “Bhutan e-Learning” for Classes PP to 12 in about two weeks. More than 400 lessons were recorded and broadcasted through television and radio to reach unreached students.

It was then realised that not all students, especially in rural areas, had access to gadgets like television or smartphones that deprived them of e-Learning. They also did not have internet, the essential e-Learning tool. The ministry quickly came up with a printed version of e-learning called self-instructional materials (SIM) to cover these students. Almost 30,000 students did not have access.

Teachers in remote areas walked days to reach SIM to each student and taught through phones using applications like WeChat. Some initiated mobile teaching.

The government was both criticised and appreciated for its decision to close schools.

While many students wanted to return to school, the government only reopened for classes IX to XII. About 790 students dropped out of school.

Despite mixed responses, the government changed the admission age to five years old for Class PP.

The Royal Education Council developed two education in emergencies curriculum called prioritised and adapted curriculum. New Normal Curriculum of 2021 has been developed.

Students would not get free stationery and uniforms. The government slashed the budget in schools to buy it.

Learning Management System, an e-Learning platform is a new hope to look forward to online education in the year of Iron Female Ox year.