Although Bhutanese students’ English language is generally considered as good, Teacher Need Assessment 2012 says otherwise.

Many other studies by institutions and individuals have found that both teachers and students have low English proficiency and below standard.

The issue was highlighted during the National School Curriculum Conference in 2016 and also during the 18th National Education Conference this year where the education ministry endorsed the need to upscale and provide professional development in English language proficiency for teachers.

A professional development training titled ‘English for Effective Communication’ was launched yesterday. More than 150 teachers from 20 dzongkhags are undergoing the training at Institute for Management Studies, Thimphu.

Teacher professional support division’s chief programme officer, Tashi Lhamo, said that although English has been the medium of instruction in the Bhutanese education system since the beginning of the modern education system, the system is still dealing with the reality of relatively low English proficiency.

“The training will emphasise on English as a communicative tool across all disciplines,” she said, adding that teachers would gain a clear understanding of effective communication skills, effective teaching, learning, and meaningful social interactions and relationships.

The five-day training is part of the nationwide professional development programmes for 40 hours. The training consists of different packages.

Tashi Lhamo said the training would be a precursor to a yearlong English proficiency development programme. The teachers will be provided with a folder that contains learning materials for 52 weeks after the training.

“Teachers will open a folder every week to work on the activities, which would be monitored by the Principals,” she said. “With the training and 52 weeks of self-learning materials, we aspire to build a teaching community that possesses excellent communication skills.”

According to a press release, communication skills become an inherent component of a teacher’s professional competency.

“It is expected that all teachers, irrespective of the subjects they teach, will model verbal and nonverbal communication techniques in English with students,” Tashi Lhamo said. “It could also help parents and members of the community foster quality learning, supportive interaction, and meaningful relationships.”

The training will also be provided to Dzongkha teachers for effective communication.

The education minister Norbu Wangchuk launched the English for Effective Communication manual book, which would be used by the trainers to plan the lesson for the training, develop training and training course.

Lyonpo said that the teachers should prepare children for the 21st century because the future that children will inherit is going to be a different world and that if the education system were the same, children would become obsolete and irrelevant. “We need to change the way we do things, that’s why our government has brought on the challenge of reforming the education system. It’s a big reform where we are doing reforms at school, curriculum, and teachers levels.”

Lyonpo reminded the teachers that if they get these reforms correct, it would adequately prepare children for the 21st-century world and provide quality education in 607 schools.

After the training, the teachers will facilitate the training programme in 50 different centres across the country, including private schools within July 2017. The training is expected to train all the 9,200 teachers.

Yangchen C Rinzin