History will be taught in English: education minister

Education: Education minister Norbu Wangchuk on social media said that history, civics, environmental and social studies, cannot be taught in Dzongkha.

Lyonpo’s statement comes after deliberations in the National Council (NC) recently where members said the four subjects should be taught in Dzongkha to promote the national language.

However, even before the education ministry had received the NC’s submissions, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk took to Twitter yesterday to say that history will continue to be taught in English in the schools. “The education ministry is not prepared for the change in medium of instruction,” the minister posted online.

Speaking to Kuensel last evening, Lyonpo said that the ministry also can’t change the medium of instruction for civics, and social and environmental studies.

However he said that once the comprehensive curriculum review the ministry has initiated is completed, the Royal Education Council will work on improving the curricula, which the ministry hopes will cover the concerns the NC has raised.

The NC, as per its recommendations wants to strengthen the Dzongkha curriculum to promote the national language by reintroducing earlier textbooks on namthar (biography) and legshey and teaching Bhutanese history in the national language. The House also submitted to pilot teaching of social studies and civics in Dzongkha.

During the discourse, Bumthang NC member Nima said the committee proposed teaching these subjects in Dzongkha because of a general perception that students are not interested in the national language because there is lack of effort to promote Dzongkha. For instance, the reason why English is popular is because of the emphasis placed on the language.

The NC Chairperson Dasho (Dr) Sonam Kinga said that even in the education blueprint he saw little about promoting Dzongkha. “If the education policy itself is like that, it is even more important for the House to review and improve these policies,” he said.

He added that while it is agreed that it will be difficult to teach Science, Maths and World History in Dzongkha, there are other subjects that can be.

“It cannot be impossible to teach about our country, our people and our villages, in Dzongkha,” the chairperson said. For instance, he pointed out that social studies is taught in English only from class IV. In class III, the subject is taught as environmental studies in Dzongkha.

Wangdue NC member Tashi Dorji reiterated the need to reintroduce old Dzongkha textbooks like Legshey langdhor, Chudhang Shingi Tenchey, Khandro Drowa Zangmo and Sheytring , all of which were condensed and compiled into a single text book which is currently used.

He said that when Dzongkha is given its due importance in offices like the Parliament where instructions are given to conduct meetings and write letters in the national language, the same effort is lacking in schools. “Leaving Dzongkha as an optional subject at the learning stage in schools creates problems in implementation,” he said.

Mongar NC member Sonam Wangchuk said that Dzongkha is considered the least important in colleges. “For instance, bachelor in business and commerce students study Dzongkha only in one semester of their three-year course. That too only for two months,” he said, adding that Dzongkha should be made the main subject.

Chukha NC member Pema Tenzin however cautioned that the option of main subjects should be left to the students to choose as per their interests. “If a child wants to be a pilot, he/she should have the option of choosing the subject as per the profession and similarly, if he/she wants to become a Dzongkha teacher, then based on it, Dzongkha should be made the main subject,” Pema Tenzin said.

Samdrupjongkhar NC member Jigme Wangchuk submitted that if the medium for history is changed to Dzongkha, the subject should also be taught by Dzongkha teachers. He said that the problem with history being taught in Dzongkha in 2007 was that teachers like him who were trained to teach history in English were made to teach in Dzongkha. “I had to teach history in Dzongkha for classes VII-VIII when I was trained to teach history in English,” he said.

The solution, he said, lies in recruiting the Rigzhung students from the college of language and culture studies. “History in Dzongkha should be taught by teachers specialised in Dzongkha,” Jigme Wangchuk said.

Pema Tenzin said that while it will be easy to teach history in Dzongkha, the same cannot be presumed for civics and social studies. He said these subjects originated abroad and the ideas are foreign. “To translate processes like water cycle into Dzongkha  would be an uphill task,” he said.

He provided an example of finding students still having to use the English word “screwdriver”  in a subject taught in Dzongkha as there is no equivalent term in Dzongkha.

“While reviews to improve the curriculum are conducted, it is equally important to ensure that our decisions do not bog down the children,” Pema Tenzin said.

Meanwhile, the House also deliberated strengthening of Bhutanese values education by developing a curriculum to promote the national aspiration and consciousness for a progressive and harmonious society. Tashi Dorji said that some private schools are starting classes without even reciting the morning prayer. He said this is an indication of cultural degradation. He added that all schools, regardless of ownership, should be made to recite the morning and evening prayers.

“If the values of our culture, tradition and etiquette could not imparted and educated in schools, it will be difficult to ingrain these values as grown ups,” Tashi Dorji said.

Tempa Wangdi

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