The education ministry decided to establish a premier school for Science, technology, engineering and Mathematics (STEM) during the 19th education conference held in Phuentsholing last week.

It also decided to carry out an in-depth study to develop an action plan for the establishment of the premier school.

During the conference, a presentation was made about the current situation, which stated that average Mathematics and Science scores of Bhutanese students are poorer than in developed countries.

An official from the school planning and coordination division (SPCD), Yeshey Lhendup, also presented some key findings of a diagnostic standardised test conducted by former REC in 2008 in 18 schools for classes V, VII and IX in English, Mathematics and Science subjects.

“The student learning outcomes are below the minimum expectations of their grade levels,” he said, adding that many students were unable to understand core concepts and apply knowledge to real-life situations across grades and subject.

“Students were also unable to perform basic numeracy and literacy tasks,” he said.

The presentation on the class X performance in Science and Mathematics showed only three percent students scored 80 percent and above in Science in 2017.

The figure was the same in 2016.

Students, who scored 80 percent and above in Mathematics had decreased to five percent in 2017, from six percent in 2016.

In Class XII, students who scored more than 80 percent in Mathematics decreased to six percent in 2017 compared to that of nine percent in 2016.

Meanwhile, participants at the conference said that Bhutan was ready to start STEM education. Some said that it should be started in the 12th Plan.

There were three options to start STEM, from class VII to XII, classes IX to XII, and classes XI to XII.

A chief education officer said that STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) should be considered and not only STEM.

“Arts should be considered as well,” he said, adding the trend today shows that there are increasing number children opting for Arts in class XI these days. “And we are also not doing good in other subjects like language, History, and Economics, which are also important.”

Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing