Review: An unassuming book from Bhutan is stimulating the grey matter among an increasing number of educationists far beyond this little-known country. Three years after it was published, ‘My Green School: An Outline’ has quietly seen three incarnations – Spanish, Catalan, and now Vietnamese.

Former education minister Thakur S Powdyel’s book has been recently translated into Vietnamese, Vietnam’s national language spoken by more than 75 million people in Vietnam and a few other countries. Translated from English by Ho-Dac Tuc (PhD), a deputy dean at Tra Vinh University in Vietnam, the Vietnamese version of the book titled Trường Xanh is less colourful but it is designed simply and elegantly.

‘My Green School’ was translated into Spanish and Catalan, two major languages of Spain, last year. Much earlier in October 2014, Ho-Dac Tuc had decided to translate the book into his mother tongue as soon as he read the first few pages and found that it contained an ‘astonishing’ call for the world.

Describing Thakur S Powdyel as ‘the most beautiful mind I’ve ever known’, Ho-Dac Tuc says that the author’s ‘message of cultivating green in its whole sense especially to green the mind has truly touched my heart’ and that his words will ‘awake certain in-built loving seed of minds’.

‘My Green School’ was written to support Bhutan government’s Educating for Gross National Happiness (GNH) initiative launched in 2010. Under the broad GNH framework, the book proposes the idea of green schools, the schools that embrace and nurture multiple dimensions of education. And these dimensions of education are presented in the form of a ‘Sherig [education] Mandala’.

The Sherig Mandala depicts eight kinds of greenery, namely natural greenery, social greenery, cultural greenery, intellectual greenery, academic greenery, aesthetic greenery, spiritual greenery, and moral greenery. These different green elements of a school attempt to bring wholeness to education and the learner’s process of education. This new paradigm proposes that the ‘predominantly uni-dimensional mentalistic approach to learning must be redeemed and expanded’ so that education ‘combines the need to sharpen brains and skills with the need to build faith and character’.

And building faith and character is what the bulk of the book dwells on. As in many of his writings, the author underlines the importance of socio-cultural, spiritual, aesthetic, and moral development of a learner as much as academic and intellectual development. He argues that a school is ‘more than space and structures, more than matter and materials’, that human beings need to ‘move from simply being to becoming’, that ‘teachers teach not only what they know, but they teach who they are’.

For all its modest title and size, ‘My Green School’ is anything but a small book. Within its pages gleam gems of ideas big and profound, ideas that can bring back the most honoured ideals of education. But the author has managed to discuss the lofty ideas and ideals in a fine, clutter-free language that often verges on the poetic. Besides the ideas, there is language to relish.

This is the book that is now written and read in another language. The rector of Hoa Sen University in Vietnam describes the Vietnamese version of ‘My Green School’ as ‘a knowledge gift to all freshmen of the University enrolled in 2016’. Going by a number of positive reviews and feedback it has received so far, the book in Vietnamese is received well.

In the meanwhile, the book has been included in recommended readings in some publications. And many more educators and academics are inspired by the message in the book. Last year, the author’s talk on the book to more than 700 teachers in Palma Mallorca, Spain, was received with adulation.  The majority of the participants included educators and people from across the social spectrum, including some of the finest education thought leaders in the world.

Contributed by

Needrup Zangpo

The writer is the editor at Druk Lotēr,  a writing, editing, and translation consulting firm based in Thimphu