Kuensel’s May 25, 2018 editorial titled ‘Education: Looking Ahead’, does not portray our education system in its right light. The editorial targets the education system for frequent changes of its policies and further rebukes by stating ‘play not with education and the future of the nation’. I feel that such statements project a lack of 360-degree analysis of the contexts and undermine professionalism in reporting.
Contrasting the editorial assertions of education’s ‘abrupt shift’ in policies creating more disadvantages, I believe that the paths of education in Bhutan have always been clear. Any policy guidelines and instructions of the education sector have been the emanations of the Royal Visions and the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. These visions articulated through Royal Kashos; The Constitution; Bhutan 2020: A Vision for Peace, Prosperity and Happiness; some 31 versions of Education Policy Guidelines and Instructions (EPGI), some 18 Annual Education Conference Resolutions has been highly instrumental in adequately shaping the education systems so far. Several operational and management guidelines have followed suit to ensure that the system grows holistically yet in a divergent manner. Suffice it is to say that the Buddhist paradigms, Royal Visions, Gross National Happiness, emerging global knowledge have guided all education policies.
The Education Policy of 1974; Education Policy of 1984 and The Purpose of School Education in Bhutan have been the precursor documents that shaped the following policies including the National Education Policy – Draft(2012). Therefore, the National Education Policy 2018 is a synthesised version of the past repository of policies and the emerging national aspirations. Hence, it can be surmised that the policies for education in Bhutan has been consistent with adaptations to suit the needs of the emerging times. On the other hand, Bhutan Education Blueprint 2014-2024 is not a policy document. It is a grand master plan to operationalize the policies of meeting educational access, equity, quality by improving system efficiencies in a structured, sequenced and planned manner. Therefore, though both the documents are complementary and supplementary to each other, it must not be construed in equal measure.
In keeping with these policies and blueprint, many major initiatives have been undertaken-objectively and relentlessly to streamline and transform the school systems, teacher competencies and school curriculum. Restructuring of school systems by decentralisation and granting greater autonomy has enabled schools to shape their strategic directions to improve the overall quality. Competency based curricular reforms are underway to make it more relevant to the current socio-economic demands. Teachers are placed at the heart of all these reform processes by ensuring teacher professionalism and wellbeing. Structures and support systems are developed at national and sub-national levels for teachers’ professional and academic growth.
These transformational initiatives are aimed for an equitable social reconstruction against the waves of globalisation. However, the gestation period of any education transformation with its share of imperfections is way too long and it is only justifiable that a holistic support mechanism is created to nurture it. Being said, it is equally important to cross-examine the roles and responsibilities of other allied agencies and make them proportionately accountable.
If teachers are leaving jobs to pursue higher studies elsewhere, it is an indication that the current system is not conducive to enable them ascend their aspirational ladders. Relevant agencies must facilitate appropriate conditions for their social, academic and professional advancements. There must be greater inter-institutional collaborations to plan, implement and review the educational missions in a holistic and cohesive manner. The Education Blueprint makes several recommendations to other associated agencies such as the Royal University of Bhutan, Royal Education Council, Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment, Royal Civil Service Commission, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Ministry of Labour and Human Resources to ensure a wholesome approach.
In this context, given the multifaceted nature of educational systems that operate in tandem with other agencies, it is crucial that Kuensel also covers education related stories from other sectors to provide a balanced perspective. Otherwise, raising qualms on education ministry only is unwholesome and unfair.
University of Canberra
The author is a Former Chief of School Planning and Coordination Division with MoE and was also the Project Manager for Bhutan Education Blueprint 2014-2024