The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) subject would be a compulsory subject for grade IX students beginning 2019 academic session, according to a circular issued by the department of school education.

The optional subject, Computer Application would be discontinued immediately. The December 21 circular also stated that the department would do away with Computer Application and implement compulsory ICT in the 2020 academic session.

The subject would be taught for a period a week.

Royal Education Council (REC), Instructional Media Division chief program officer, Ugyen Dorji said the REC has already completed and developed ICT literacy curriculum for grade IX. The council would also provide orientation to teachers on the new literacy curriculum for grade IX this vacation.

Ugyen Dorji said the literacy curriculum with ICT is based on the four strands – knowledge and operation, digital citizenship, communication and collaboration, and computational thinking.

“Although we prefer to orient teachers who have ICT background, it’s not possible in some schools,” he said, adding that this time REC is expecting teachers with ICT background for class IX.

The REC has already developed and implemented ICT literacy curriculum from grade IV to VI in 2017 and grade VII-VIII in 2018 as a compulsory subject. This is in line with the Education ICT master plan (iSherig) and Bhutan Education Blueprint.

The iSherig has identified development of comprehensive curriculum for literacy with ICT under the programme capacity development students, which is why the literacy subject from grade IV to X was reviewed and developed, the circular stated.

The subject is expected to teach technical skills, ethics in use of ICT such as cyber safety, plagiarism and responsible use of computers.

With this, the department also notified all schools with computer laboratories to offer ICT as a compulsory subject from grade IV and above with a period each a week.

According to the Annual Education Statistics 2018, about 205 public schools and 28 private schools have computers. However, only 46 out of 308 public primary schools have computers. Most of these schools are located in remote places, and some do not have access to electricity.

As of 2018, the average computers per student for schools with computers are one computer per 23 students. The middle secondary schools have the lowest student computer ratio of 1:25 and primary schools have the highest computer to student ratio of 1:37 in public schools.

In terms of internet connectivity in schools, about 94 percent of private schools and 51 percent of public schools are connected to the internet. About

95 percent of public higher secondary schools and 49 percent of the public primary schools have access to internet.

About 12 percent of public primary schools still do not have electricity connection.

Yangchen C Rinzin