The education ministry is considering a longer summer vacation but a shorter winter break from next year. The matter will be discussed during the National Education Conference, scheduled to be held from January 9-12.

What is commendable is that the education ministry has floated this idea on its Facebook page, Sherig Bhutan, and is welcoming public feedback. This is an example of using social media effectively.

The merits and demerits of a shorter winter break and a longer summer one are already being debated on the education ministry’s Facebook page. Some have argued that a shorter winter break will deprive economically disadvantaged students from working temporary jobs to save up for the academic year. Some say that a shorter break means less chances of students coming into conflict with the law. The arguments have points and gaps, but what is important is that public feedback is being elicited. For one, some may relate longer vacations leading to youth coming into conflict with the law, but for some it maybe caused by a lack of engagement and activities, among others.

There are several other issues that will be deliberated during the upcoming conference.

The conference will find ways to reduce the workload on teachers through better organisation and utilisation of ICT, and improve their English proficiency.

However, there are other issues where feedback from parents, academics, and even students, besides educationists and teachers, would help in contributing to the planned reform of the education sector.

For one, the issue of shortening or lengthening the vacations could use more feedback from both parents and teachers. How do students spend their vacations? Are they engaged with activities or simply hanging around playing video games? Would a shorter academic session rush teachers to complete their syllabus and therefore compromise educational quality?

Another issue that will require a strong set of diverse but substantial views is on how we inculcate value-based education into our curriculum. Questions such as what values we want our children or students to have and how we get such ideas across will need vigorous debate, preferably followed by research.

The education ministry is also planning to make Dzongkha one of the major subjects again. This is the logical move given that Dzongkha is the national language. The plan is to do away with environmental studies until class III by infusing the subject into the remaining subjects. The plan is good but the question is if we will be overburdening our Dzongkha lopens. Is the education system prepared in terms of training and human resources to make this move?

The education ministry has set a precedent and opened up the floor for discussion and debate. We, as parents, as academics, as concerned citizens,  must now get involved and work with the education sector by providing feedback based either on experience or research.

It is essential that we get involved, especially those who criticise the education sector for its weaknesses. While we can’t expect improvements overnight, by participating on this important subject, we ensure that we help in improving the future of our children, and the country. We all share the same goal.