Upon first examination, K Gangri Primary School could be mistaken for any other school in Bhutan. Colourful cartoon drawings and inspirational sayings, such as: “I’m not here to be average, I’m here to be awesome”, adorn the walls. The playground is alive with students in kiras and ghos, giggling and evading their friends during a game of tag before flocking to their classrooms at the start of school.
However, K Gangri’s mission and founders are anything but ordinary. Established by three women teachers, who abandoned their jobs at government schools because they felt that they weren’t able to provide the attention and care that they believed their students deserved, K Gangri Primary School was born out of an idea that students should not just be taught the regulated syllabus, but lessons that expand upon each student’s individual talents and interests.
This sort of teaching style is based on a teaching structure, the Kagan teaching structure, not taught by many other schools in Bhutan. Within this structure, students receive a personalised education that promotes development of the student as a whole, while also preparing them for practical growth beyond the classroom.
Passang Lham, the academic head, describes this as a “completely student-centred mission, where teachers are free to engage all students and provide them with the opportunity to have a say in their own development.”
Kuenzang Dema, one of the founders, explains that the reason why this sort of model works at K Gangri is because teachers are given the unparalleled opportunity to provide a learning environment that is inclusive and collaborative in nature. Students are not only encouraged but expected to share their interests, ideas, problems and passions with their teachers.
“Students are empowered to reach their personal and intellectual potential with curriculum that they help create,” says the principal of K Gangri, Jamba Wangmo.
After school activities largely revolve around this idea and are also created with an international focus on social development and the environment in mind. Activities include assembling sustainable arts and crafts, tending the school garden, and practicing German with their international teacher from Germany.
Another programme, in partnership with MyBhutan, connects students with international students from a primary school in Las Vegas, Nevada. Earlier this year, both Bhutanese and American students drew and wrote pieces on what they like to do for fun. The students then exchanged their drawings and a video asking questions such as, “What are your hobbies?” and “What are your favourite snacks?” This enabled students to learn from each other’s distinct cultures and also to understand that they really aren’t all that different.
The school also participated in World Environment Day. They learned how to make bags out of discarded materials from the MyBhutan staff and handed out reused badges advocating greener practices to locals in Thimphu.
The long-term vision for K Gangri is to create a school, where students continue to grow as individuals and, upon graduation, are able to successfully compete in a global market to mitigate and combat the problems of the future.
Contributed by Sarah Cahlan