Curriculum review finds issues with all subjects

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 Issues include the need for curriculum frameworks and retrenching, addressing outdated information, lack of teaching and learning materials, and teacher professional development.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.

Social science

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.

Commerce

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.

English

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.

Dzongkha

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.

Policy

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.

Tempa Wangdi

2 replies
  1. PemaCl
    PemaCl says:

    It’s really heartening to know that curriculum specialists and veterans in Bhutan are working on resolving discrepancies in curriculum and teaching/learning materials faced by our teachers and students in the schools. We will hope that the national curriculum evolves as “a holistic Learning Guide for All” so that there is equity in learning opportunities for all children leading to meaningful life experiences and achievements as always emphasized by Their Majesties and great leaders. Today, I would like to make a small comment over a statement made by our curriculum specialists during the conference: ‘The need to develop separate curriculums for special needs children as well as for premier schools is also being recommended.’
    I would not recommend a separate curriculum for students with special needs at all. If focused on separate learning settings and contents for children with special needs, it would then lead to ultimate segregation and discrimination.
    The children with special needs must have access and opportunity to learn in the same curriculum as their peers who are not with disabilities. This can be well achieved by creating room for the teachers to make adaptations, accommodations, some flexibility, adjustments and prepare their lessons in a differentiated method to a topic in the curriculum to address the varied learning abilities of the students. This is how a curriculum becomes inclusive and takes care of diversity in the schools. The concept of ‘differentiated instruction’ is not only for children with disabilities. It is applicable to all learners and the teachers can experience much more success and satisfaction in their endeavours with this simple mindful process.

    By P.Chhogyel.

  2. irfan
    irfan says:

    I think readers here should pay attention to what the REC’s educational leadership unit head, Lhundup Dukpa has pointed out. He said, “Currently some subjects have a framework while others have text books but no frameworks”. And all this discussion is part of a school curriculum review and if I am not totally wrong, it’s both technical and non-technical a review.

    When subjects remains more or less fixed as part school education as we move from Class I to X and then to Class XII; it’s very much possible to develop some mega textbooks for each such subjects. The objective may be to make education till Class X and then till Class XII both complete and wholesome maintaining a minimum standard at the highest level.

    So every subject from Class I to Class X can have one such mega textbook. It can even be developed in two parts, Class I-V and Class VI-X. And we definitely expect separate textbooks for Class XI and XII as subjects will change depending on the streams of education. Primary advantage here is that both a complete curriculum for entire school education and these mega subject textbooks can very well be managed under a single administrative and management framework.

    Moving further under the same umbrella framework, teaching and reading materials can be developed in good details for each and every classes of school education separately. This can even take into consideration the understanding levels of the students in different classes depending on their age. But the textbook for a subject remains complete in not more than three parts from Class I all the way to Class XII. Giving the students a direct access to these textbooks is important even though teaching and reading material development for each and every class can maintain better flexibility from time to time.

    Moreover, under a framework like this, a teacher can be better trained to handle any ‘teaching and reading material’ for a particular class he is going to teach. While as a teaching professional, he is always expected to totally aware of the detailed subject textbooks that cover total school education under a curriculum for every subject.

    Everything that I have mentioned here probably sounds a bit awkward as things may have been done differently in Bhutanese education system. But here, I do always come across school textbooks which are more of teaching and reading materials than actually subject textbooks. And that primary happens as we are dealing with delivering one pre-fixed standard (or the curriculum framework) of school education through a system of as many as 12 separate classrooms over a period of 12 years.

    So let’s hope that we get things right keeping a total and wholesome school education in mind before our students enter college and university education. Otherwise, when some of these very university graduates come back to schools as teaching faculties, they do find themselves totally disconnected from the subjects. And this is highly a technical issue in the education system. It just may not be fixed providing numerous trainings to the faculties unless we have our system of textbooks well sorted out and connected moving from schools to college and university education.

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