Reflection on State, Citizen, and Citizenship Education
A book comes once in a while to remind us of the time we are living in. And this time, it is Gyal-Khab that stirs and prods the citizen in the Bhutanese.
Written by one of the foremost Bhutanese educationists, Thakur Singh Powdyel, Gyal-Khab brings us straight up to the mirror of our consciousness. It comes at a time when building national consciousness has become more important than building the physical structure.
Gyal-Khab, another fine work of the author, reduces the bigness of ideas and isms down to personal values that define our relations with our immediate surroundings in the simplest terms. The poetry of his prose is, as always, irresistible, almost inebriating!
In the most deceptive form, Gyal-Khab is Bhutan calling upon the Bhutanese, or otherwise, to rise to the occasion as rapid development threatens to unseat the values that define the national character. But then, as the author puts it: “The subject matters to me because it matters to my country as indeed it could matter to any country…The stakes are high and the need of the hour is compelling.”
Gyal-Khab is a deep meditation on the roles and responsibilities of the citizens in the making of the nation, a future that is desirable for all. We may be given the freedom to exercise our fundamental rights, but how do we make sure that our speech and actions are not in the way “that harms or interferes with somebody else’s right”? Gyal-Khab calls us to be sensitive to the “hurts and wounds that our freedom causes on other people, communities, groups and institutions.”
At a time when Bhutanese education system is on the cusp of a significant change, educating children from early childhood to become clear-thinking and enlightened citizens ought to be the central idea of development. Some call this initiative citizenship education. Because we are a young democracy, a deeper understanding of the ever-expanding roles of citizens is becoming all the more urgent, as it is necessary. The purpose of our education system has to be to enable our children to discover and give their best and contribute to the building of our society in the best image that is possible because, in the end, it is the character of citizens that shapes the character and strength of nation.
Gyal-Khab deserves to be read in schools and all other institutions.
This way, in quiet dignity, Gyal-Khab tries to “awaken the spirit, beckon the heart, and open new vistas of promise and possibility.” It is a book that every Bhutanese must read to understand their role as a citizen, each individually, and must find a space in the shelf of every true lover of literature.