Education: While the National Education Conference endorsed the premier school concept, following recommendations from educationists, the ministry has called for further research into the idea to study its feasibility in the country.

The conference, which was held in Phuentsholing, concluded on January 12.

“We will endorse the concept for now and have research tell us whether it’s feasible,” education minister Norbu Wangchuk said during the conference.

After the deliberations, more research was called for to determine the feasibility and benefits of premier schools. Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk also said that the outcome of the study would determine the number of premier schools to be established in the country.

“If the researches tell us that premier schools are not feasible then it won’t be implemented,” Lyonpo said.

He added that establishing premier schools would require strong convincing of the public because Bhutanese society revolves around the idea of equity. “The premier school concept will take time to gel with Bhutanese society,” he said.

Should the study find premier schools are suitable, the Department of School Education (DoSE) has proposed to complete drafting of the concept, curriculum, budget and human resource requirement by April 2017.

Following which, the first premier school could be opened by February 2018. A premier school might also be called a “school of excellence”.

DoSE defines premier schools as schools specialising in streams like science, maths, performing arts and sports to build on children’s innate talents, potential, interest and aptitude. Premier schools will also instruct children on moral conduct and self-discipline besides providing an advanced curriculum.

But admissions to premier schools, which a team of selected teachers and leaders will manage, will be opened through an aptitude test. Children will not be able to study in premier schools by default.

While DoSE proposed to open 12 premier schools, the conference resolved to begin with either one or two premier schools at most. “I would suggest that instead of opening a number of premier schools, it should begin with STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mechanical),” Trashiyangtse chief dzongkhag education officer Kinzang Dhendup said.

DoSE had proposed for premier schools in the field of technical and vocational skills, creative and performing arts, sports, humanities and social sciences, commerce and economics, and science, technology and mathematics.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said that although there are children with multiple talents, the existing school system averages all the students with standardised assessments. He said that the present system of education “numbs out” individual talents.

For instance, if a student excels in sports, he/she is not groomed in that area because performance is solely based on academics.

A school of sports will besides focusing on academics and sports, also allow the student to not neglect sporting activities.

For instance, if a school is turned into a science premier, students who perform highly in science from across the country will be selected through aptitude tests and admitted to that particular school.

But some members cautioned that the ministry would be opening a floodgate of changes to the education system. Some educationists felt that opening of premier schools will further create division among the schools and uneven distribution of resources.

“Establishing of premier schools will only create division when schools are already struggling to get used to the Central School concept,” one of the principals said.

Tempa Wangdi |  Phuentsholing