Education: A number of issues, constraints and challenges pertaining to the existing school curriculum are being unearthed at the national school curriculum review pre-conference, which is underway in Paro.
The pre-conference began on October 21 to assess and review the findings and feedback from over 500 schools.
The schools and dzongkhags sent their reviews after the education ministry recently announced a review of the existing curriculum after errors in textbooks were brought to public attention.
Experts and officials education ministry, Royal Education Council and teachers, among others, are meeting to assess and analyse these reviews from dzongkhags.
The indication is that there are issues for almost every subject. Issues include the need for curriculum frameworks and retrenching, addressing outdated information, lack of teaching and learning materials, and teacher professional development. The outcome of the pre-conference however isn’t final as it has to be endorsed in the main conference which will be held in a few days.
Lack of a curriculum framework to guide the development for subjects like geography and social studies, and overlapping content are some of the issues in social science.
For instance both the Principles of Geography and Bhutan Geography textbooks have a chapter about climate.
“So there is a need to integrate these topics,” unit head for social sciences, Norbu Wangchuk said.
As per the reviews, information in the textbooks need to be updated while the quality of print and pictures needs improvement. For example, the Bhutan Geography textbook still uses a population projection of the 2005 census.
The History curriculum has to be revamped and retrenched to enable teachers to complete the syllabus within a limited number of periods allocated. “The teachers are saying that they are unable to cover the syllabus because of these reasons,” history department training developer Karma Phuntsho said.
The field review is also recommending some new topics. For instance, teachers want to include a section on His Majesty The King.
For class 9-10 economics, lack of curriculum framework has been the problem. For classes, 11-12 a textbook has to be developed as per the curriculum framework. Professional development also remains a priority for social science teachers.
Unavailability of local textbooks has been a major hindrance in commerce though accounts and business mathematics also have their own share of issues. In absence of a prescribed local textbook, schools have depended on Indian textbooks.
“What is found in Indian textbooks aren’t there in our syllabus and whatever is there in our syllabus is not there in the Indian textbooks,” a teacher from Gelephu higher secondary school, Tshering Dema said.
She said that there is need to update the supplementary commerce textbook since it is outdated. The supplement textbook still says that the Companies Act is still in draft form though it was endorsed years back.
The schools recommended that only Bhutan’s Companies Act be included in the syllabus, so that teacher’s don’t have to also teach about India’s Companies Act.
Science and Mathematics
REC science division head, Bhoj Raj Rai, said that a major problem in general science from class four-eight is a mismatch between the subject and teaching background of the teacher, such as for Dzongkha environmental science.
Currently teachers with general backgrounds are teaching these subjects without professional training.
“We either have to give the general teachers a rigorous professional development training or recruit the specific subject teachers with science backgrounds,” he said.
Though there has been no major issue with science subjects for classes nine and eleven in terms of standard and quality since it was reformed recently, there has been a glitch in intention and implementation. But this, Bhoj Raj Rai said could be addressed easily with professional development trainings since the problem is more related to competency of teachers.
For mathematics, it has been well received both by students and teachers after its reform in 2013. But the only issue is lack of math labs, teaching and learning materials.
In IT, there is need to update the software and align textbook content to the local context since some have been found irrelevant. Access to Internet and insufficient number of computers are some other problems.
The vast syllabus is the major issue for this subject which requires to be addressed. “Lack of resources to carry out listening and speaking activities is another issue in language,” REC curriculum developer Amber Rai said, adding that the language teachers also have to be trained in writing and teaching poetry.
As Dzongkha, under existing practice is taught by general teachers, it is recommended that teachers with Dzongkha teaching backgrounds should teach the national language. “If not the general teachers should be provided professional training in Dzongkha,” REC Dzongkha curriculum developer Dorji said.
To improve Dzongkha among the students, the teachers recommend that the Dzongkha Development Commission look into arranging a Dzongkha-English dictionary for every student. The schools also need workbooks for classes one-three.
Though students are promoted to higher classes even if they fail in Dzongkha, students are required to attend the exams. Therefore, there is a need for a monitoring agency to ensure students attend the exams.
Meanwhile, optional subjects such as TVET, arts, media studies, physical health and agriculture for food security are also being reviewed. The need to develop separate curriculums for special needs children as well as for premier schools is also being recommended.
Stakeholders are also looking at whether policies are adequate are in place. “Currently some subjects have a framework while others have textbooks but no framework,” REC educational leadership unit head, Lhundup Dukpa said.
The outcome from the pre-conference will be presented at the main conference in a few days, which will be attended by eminent guest speakers and subject experts from both within and outside the country.