Monastic education is changing. It should. Times have changed and so have circumstances and demands of education whether it is secular or traditional. Monastic education is no more all discipline and rote learning that it used to be. With inclusion of modern curricula, months and years of meditation on the secluded mountains is fast becoming out of fashion.
We had it good when we were a closed society. Such traditional systems worked wonderfully indeed. But we have moved on since. And here we find ourselves dazzled with choices to make. What do we do?
Buddhism is fast becoming a popular philosophy. More and more people from non-Buddhist countries are embracing it because of non-divisive and nonviolent messages that it propagates. At the heart of Buddhism lie the all too rare messages of equality, compassion and non-interference. It is because of this that a Buddhist society like ours is compelled to adapt to the changes confronting us today. Somehow, even as we wish not to be, we become the ultimate source and masters of Buddhist wisdom and experience. When the world beyond seek our interpretation of the essence and depth of the philosophy itself, we could do better not to stutter and falter.
But our monastic schools today are facing serious shortage of English teachers. The 388-something monastic schools in the country need about 80 English teachers. Why is there a shortage of English teachers is not very hard to figure. Where does monastic education really belong? Annual Education Statistics include monastic education under the whole education system in the country, yet it is vastly outside its purview. Deploying teachers to monastic schools thus presents itself as a problem.
English and Language curricula are important in monastic education just as they are in secular tradition. What potential they have to give us is to discover and delve deep into the repositories of other rich and sublime traditions. Some might call it the benefit of comparative study. Our traditional monastic education has that much space to grow and perfect.
We know where the missing link is. How the deployment of English teachers in monastic schools should be done is upon Ministry of Education (MoE) and Zhung Dratshang to work out. If education cannot be fair, nothing can be. Everyone, wherever they are and however they are dressed, is equally deserving of the same right as the next person.
A way must be worked out to deploy permanent English teachers to monastic schools. How resourcefully and sustainably it is to be done is upon MoE and Zhung Dratshang.