When the talk of doing away with Saturday classes for schools was doing the rounds, in 2018, Kuensel’s stand was that the decision could have a far-reaching impact at all levels in the educations system. We did not welcome it and suggested that the government slowed down with the idea. Two years later, the Education Ministry says that the schools should now reinstate Saturday immediately. Our views on these issues have not changed.
What we must look at is what went wrong and where.
Then, when the present government came up with the idea to do away with Saturday classes, the argument was that it was to encourage “progressive learning”. As antithetical as it sounded then, the results are showing now.
No classes on Saturday means more time for oneself, which should be a reflective time, Sherig Lyonpo said then. Parents, educators, and teachers pleaded with the ministry to look beyond such an easy and spineless statement.
Free time is not much desired, or even required; time for learning is, in much more meaningful ways. When the political party came with the promise to do away with Saturday classes, there was, as expected, support from certain sections of teachers and students. The other group that fought for more academic and instruction time to cover the syllabus lost it all, not because they had poor reason to argue their points with, but because their arguments fell on the deaf ears.
But then, what about the loss itself? Almost three years have gone by. What the children could have had by way of depth in learning, they missed it altogether. Who do we blame?
Just for the perspective: when the beginning of the academic session was changed from March to February, before the decision to do away with Saturday classes, the argument from a large section of the population was that the total instructional time wasn’t enough in school, particularly for middle and high secondary classes.
As in so much else today, we quickly blame it all on the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic likely had no play whatsoever in student learning given the many interventions we can and have managed to put in place in these trying times. There is something so wrong in the decision that the ministry made that now comes with the order to change it immediately.
Bureaucracy is one and officialdom another. Both are toxic and unnecessary. We are yet to learn, from the education ministry, why the change suddenly.
Redesigning the curriculum framework and weeding out unnecessary contents from the textbooks is happening. In fact, we have gone on further than that. We are now talking about new normal education. But we are still mired in the same deep hole.
Where is our education system heading?