Winter break has been shortened by two weeks and summer lengthened to a month

Education: Schools will open earlier this year following a change in the academic session that was endorsed yesterday at the National Education Conference in Phuentsholing.

Teachers and students will have to report to their schools on February 1 and 3 respectively this year.

With some educationists asking to pre-pone the reporting date for students from February 5, education minister Norbu Wangchuk agreed to keep February 3 as the reporting date. “In order to enable and provide schools adequate time to prepare for HRH the Gyalsey’s birth anniversary, students can report on February 3,” Lyonpo said. This will give schools one day to prepare for the celebrations.

This means that while the winter break will be cut short by two weeks, the summer break will be extended to a month. The winter break will start on December 18 and end on January 31 for teachers and on February 2 for students.

The summer and winter breaks for schools in the highlands like Merak, Sakteng, Laya and Lingzhi will remain unchanged. Schools in Laya, Lingzhi and Lunana will resume only by March or April and end by mid-November. Schools in Merak and Sakteng will start between March 10-20 and end between November 30 to December 5.
The reporting time for this year’s class XI will however remain unchanged since evaluation of their exams has just started following the completion of the class XII exams. Class XI students will report by the first week of March.

Tashitse Higher Secondary School (HSS), and the Phobjikha and Ura Middle Secondary Schools, which expressed concerns with resuming before the end of the cold season, will implement the new academic session on a year-long trial.

“If the new academic session isn’t practicable for these schools, they will be elevated with the bracket of schools like Laya and Lingzhi,” Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said. This might apply even for schools in other cold areas like Haa.

Ura Central School principal Lhawang Norbu said that the problem of starting schools in cold places like Ura is of children suffering from infections because of the cold. “As per our experience, children were found suffering from skin diseases on their head and feet because of the cold weather,” Lhawang Norbu said.
Therefore, it was submitted that these schools be allowed to reopen the same time as those in the highlands.

Education officers also asked the ministry to provide heating equipment for schools in cold places like Haa, Phobjikha and Ura. “Since schools cannot buy efficient heating devices under the existing budget allocation, the ministry should help procure heating appliances for schools,” chief dzongkhag education officer of Haa, Temba, said.

The ministry has also asked the Department of Youth and Sports (DYS) and the Youth Development Fund (YDF) to review and align their sporting and other youth-oriented activities with the new academic session. The objective is to keep the youth engaged throughout the month-long summer break and so prevent them from engaging in unlawful activities.

As raised by the educationists, the Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment (BCSEA) will also look into reviewing its exam evaluation system.
Tenzin HSS principal Chogyal Tenzin said that BCSEA should change how it evaluates class X given the new academic session. “If the synchronised change isn’t made to the class X evaluation, it will be difficult for the private schools to meet the 180 instructional days since it would be already March-April by the time private schools start class XI admissions,” he said.

Principals and education officers asked to review both the evaluation of class X and XII examinations. “Class X evaluation should be done first instead of class XII like now,” Tashitse HSS principal Ugyen said.

Some participants also asked if evaluation of both the class X and XII exams can be conducted at the same time to suit the new academic session.
BCSEA secretary Tenzin Dorji said that the council will look into how the class X evaluations can be aligned with the new academic session. However, he added that it will be difficult to conduct the evaluation for both class X and XII simultaneously as it is heavily reliant on teachers and there is a shortage of human resources in the organisation. “BCSEA will however support the idea and try to come out with the results a little earlier,” he said.
The new academic session has been endorsed to give overworked teachers breathing space and to allow students to spend meaningful and quality time with their families during the summer vacation. “More than the teachers, it is our children who need the long break to get fully recharged,” education monitoring division chief programme officer Phuntsho Lham said.

It is also expected to allow students to help their parents with farm work like paddy transplantation in the summers. More importantly children in the southern belt will no longer have to go to schools under heavy rain risking their lives from floods and landslides. Schools will also be spared from losing perishable food stocks like lentils to the humid summer weather.

Tempa Wangdi