Education: Students of classes preprimary (PP) to XII must now pass Dzongkha in order to be promoted to a higher class, it was decided at the ongoing National Education Conference in Phuentsholing yesterday.

The conference also endorsed a proposal for the environmental studies (EVS) subject in classes PP-III to be merged into the Dzongkha and English subjects. The objective is to provide children with a stronger foundation in language and numeracy.

However, the new rule will not be applicable for the 2016 batch of class X and XII students whose board exam results are due in one-two months. But students from classes PP to XII will have to pass Dzongkha exams from the 2017 academic year in order to be promoted to a higher class.

Currently, students are promoted to higher classes even if they have failed in Dzongkha because of an inconsistency in policy implementation. “Though the policy states that the examination bodies should make students reappear Dzongkha exams if they have failed, it has never happened,” Department of School Education’s school reform programme coordinator Kaka Tshering said. The practice implies that children can still be promoted even when they have failed in Dzongkha, he added.

While trained Dzongkha teachers will be teaching the subject for classes PP to III, adequate resources will also be allocated to help schools buy more Dzongkha books to add to school libraries.

“The Royal Education Council (REC) has one year to get the revised EVS curriculum ready,” education minister Norbu Wangchuk said.

The REC is planning to develop the new revised EVS curriculum during the mid-term break by calling subject experts from schools across the country.

REC training and curriculum developer Karma Tenzin said that while EVS as a subject won’t be dropped, the duplication of concepts in Dzongkha and EVS and inconsistencies of terms and terminologies will be reduced. “Infusing EVS into the language curriculum will help reduce the number of subjects and workload for both students and teachers,” he said.

However, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said that until such time that the REC is able to come up with the new revised curriculum, Dzongkha teachers will continue teaching the Dzongkha EVS but a framework will be developed to guide these teachers through the revised curriculum. “REC should start developing the curriculum framework to guide Dzongkha teachers through the revised EVS subject,” Lyonpo said.

In order to help students obtain a stronger language foundation in  primary education, trained Dzongkha teachers will now teach the revised EVS subject. Both the moves come in an attempt to promote and popularise Dzongkha among children.

Tenzin Higher Secondary School (HSS) principal Chogyal Tenzin questioned if Dzongkha teachers aren’t failing to sell the subject to students. “Because most lopens are still found teaching the subject glued to their chairs like giving a religious teaching,” he said, adding that if this is the method of teaching, the desired result can never be realised even after overhauling the entire curriculum.

Chukha chief education officer Kinley Gyeltshen also questioned the credibility of the recruitment process for Dzongkha teachers. He questioned if the practise of recruiting class XII passed out students from schools and Rigzhungs for Dzongkha teachers itself is not flawed. He said there is a need to review even the training methods in the colleges of education in Paro and Samtse.

“While Dzongkha teachers are supposed to learn how to teach Dzongkha, save of one subject, most of the teaching methods are still learnt in English,” Kinley Gyeltshen said. He shared an experience during his time as a principal of receiving a leave letter from a Dzongkha teacher in English.

“When I told her that the leave application in English can’t be accepted, the teacher replied that she could not write in Dzongkha,” he said.

The Samdrupjongkhar chief education officer Rinchen Gyeltshen attributed the waning popularity of Dzongkha in schools to general teachers teaching the subject to classes PP to III. “Deploying Dzongkha teachers to extended classrooms becomes even more difficult leaving the children at the mercy of general teachers’ Dzongkha proficiency,” he said.

He pointed out that adequate trained Dzongkha teachers should be deployed to schools and extended classrooms.

But the education ministry’s chief human resource officer Kinley Gyeltshen said that there is no shortage of trained Dzongkha teachers. He said that in fact there were 419 excess Dzongkha teachers in the middle and lower secondary schools in 2016.

“Therefore, I would urge the dzongkhag education officers to make proper distribution of Dzongkha teachers in their respective dzongkhags,” he said.

When it comes to the shortage of eight Dzongkha teachers in Samdrupjongkhar and two more in its thromde, the ministry will fill these gaps by this year, Kinley Gyeltshen said.

Lhuentse chief dzongkhag education officer Ugyen Pem said that the promotion of Dzongkha is lacking at the community level. “If our children learn some new words in Dzongkha, even parents hardly acknowledge it. But if a child picked up new English words, they are treated completely different,” Ugyen Pem said.

She also pointed out that even senior officials despite promoting Dzongkha tend to use English more. “While senior officials of course at least greet in Dzongkha with Kuzuzangpo, they then take permission to continue in English,” Ugyen Pem said, adding that if the country is serious about promotion of its national language it should also begin at home and at the individual level.

Tempa Wangdi