The New Normal Curriculum (NNC) 2021 is a changeover whose time has truly come. The coronavirus pandemic has caused us serious disruption in the education sector; schools have been closed for a long time. Online or e-learning has been challenging for both students and teachers. The change is necessary and apt but the success of NNC will depend largely on the education ministry’s efforts to not make it a disaster.

The ministry has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons recently.

NNC, properly understood, is a reiteration of the ministry’s aim to make teaching and learning much more responsive and relevant to the changing times. Seen from this perspective, disruption triggered by the pandemic is an opportunity to give Bhutan’s school education system a new lease of life.

The Royal Education Council (REC) deserves our praise for trying to bring a significant change in the way we teach our children. But there is a serious gap to cover. How we train our teachers to teach hasn’t undergone a noticeable change.

NNC will demand reorientation of teachers, which will not happen overnight. And the schools are opening in less than a week from now.

What is NNC, though? It is a competency-based learning, clichéd as it may sound, which promises to depart significantly from perspective learning. That means NNC will encourage students to direct his or her learning within the context of given attainment requirements. In other words, Bhutan’s school education system will henceforth rest on the innovations and speed of the on-going digital revolution.

But all these exciting things in the education sector bring us to a sobering reality. When schools closed and online learning began, many students found themselves unable to afford even a mobile phone from where they could follow the day’s lesson and complete their assignments. Internet connectivity is a major problem in the country.

That the REC is ready to come up with guidelines for NNC instruction gives us some comfort but we must also consider reality such as many IT teachers not having access to internet or a laptop. Some teachers have been found to be struggling with the basics of computer still.

For the NNC to do well, we require a lot more than a change in curriculum. We need a total reorientation of the system. The problem is that we do not have much time. If NNC succeeds, school education will succeed. If the ministry fails to give it a solid ground, all things could come crumbling down.