Schools across the country will not have classes on Saturday from the 2019 academic session.

The decision was endorsed at the 19th national education conference in Phuentsholing yesterday.

After a series of discussions, which also included a decision to shelve the plan for sometime, a majority of the participants raised their hands to support the move and pass the resolution.

Although a majority of educationists agreed to do away with Saturday classes, few still said it would be difficult.

A private school principal said there are co-curricular activities such as sports, professional development activities, review meetings, remedial classes, celebrations and preparations that need time.

She said doing away with Saturday classes would mean squeezing a lot of activities on the weekdays.

The principal also said teachers took extra classes to complete syllabuses today and it would be challenging if Saturdays are declared a holiday.

“Let us not equate ourselves with other civil servants,” she said. “We might be compromising a lot.”

Another participant also said that there was a need for further and wider consultation.“We didn’t discuss this with our teachers and parents,” he said.

However, a participant said it would be a waste of time if the decision to do away Saturday classes were not endorsed this time.

“Teachers are happy,” he said, explaining that it was already discussed in two previous conferences. “2019 is a good year to start.”

Concerns of not fulfilling the 180 days of instructional days in an academic session were also raised during the discussion.

Chief dzongkhag education officer of Thimphu, Tashi Namgyal, said the school would still have 185 days a year, more than the standard instructional days, even after excluding the Saturday classes.“Instructional time means time used in any activities in school,” he said.

However, the conference resolved that schools would be given the discretion to use Saturdays as required. Teachers can use Saturdays for professional development activities and events.

An educationist said it’s good for the teachers to have Saturdays off.

“But we have a prescribed curriculum, which is not changed or minimised,” the teacher said. “We also have to consider co-curricular activities, individual work plan, and professional development programmes.”

Royal Education Council (REC) dean Wangpo Tenzin said ever since they learned of doing away with Saturday classes, they have been doing some homework.

“Works have already been started. We have formed a taskforce to study about thinning of text books whatever possible and curriculum consolidation,” he said.

“By 2020 we should be able to bring changes.”

Education minister Jai Bir Rai said doing away with the Saturday classes is for the quality of education. “All stakeholders should take ownership. We should prepare for the good of all.”

Lyonpo also said that each school could come up with strategic plans for professional development programmes or co-curricular activities during Saturdays.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa has pledged to consider doing away with Saturday classes for a progressive education.

Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing