Opposition asks government to get overhauling education right

Education: Opposition MP from Panbang, Dorji Wangdi, moved a motion at the National Assembly yesterday concerning education in the country.

He said that the question of what is the real purpose and aim of education has been one of most widely discussed and debated issues in the country today.

The real purpose of education, he said, is to build character of individuals and to equip them with skills and values that will help them be gainfully employed. Even the country’s Constitution has a section dedicated wholly for education: “The State shall endeavour to provide education for the purpose of improving and increasing knowledge, values and skills of the entire population with education being directed towards the full development of the human personality.”

But is Bhutan’s education system relevant to today’s world? That is the question.

Dorji Wangdi said that the answer is an unequivocal “No”. He said that while Bhutan’s education system used to be lauded as sound and good and had served its purpose for a long time, it has now lagged far behind in relevance and quality has greatly suffered.

“The system needs complete overhauling to transform [the country’s education system] and to make it relevant to today needs,” said Dorji Wangdi.

Dorji Wangdi pointed out some of the deficiencies facing Bhutan’s education system. He said that the current education system is heavily academic-oriented from school to tertiary levels. On the other hand, technical education and training remain largely secondary and neglected.

“College academic disciplines and subject combinations are not relevant to the changing local and global labour market needs. There is no school-to-work transition policy and system at all…and no clear policy on central school system and its administration system. Also, there is a confusion in teacher needs and deployment, including institutional arrangement and governance system, among others,” said Dorji Wangdi.

These are the reasons, said Dorji Wangdi, why school leavers and college graduates are not able to find jobs. Mismatch between jobs and skills continue to be a major reason for unemployment.

He pointed out that there is severe shortage of skilled technical workforce in the country. The government’s idea of central schools will only create inequality between schools and teachers.

The problem with education is so vast that even Education Blueprint 2014-2024 will not be able to address the problems, said Dorji Wangdi. The Blueprint, he said, lacks clear understanding of the extent and complexity of knowledge, skills and values required for our children in the 21st century. “At the best, the Blueprint is an idealistic proclamation of reform and could produce a large number of unemployed educated youth.”

The Opposition asked the government to consider some urgent actions. It advised the government to develop a clear policy on central school system and guideline for their administration and management and reform the whole system and approach to teacher training and development, including institutional arrangements.

Dorji Wangdi urged the government to revise the Education Blueprint and other supporting policies to reform the education system to incorporate and integrate relevant knowledge, skills and values required for our children in the 21st century and to reform the technical education at all levels to provide a major thrust to skills development and boost skilled workforce.

He said that the way forward would be to establish more colleges and to expand the existing colleges, reform both the curriculum and pedagogy of school and tertiary education to make the whole education path and transition clear, coherent and systematic, and introduce labour market education in teacher training colleges and middle secondary education level and above.

“The Opposition requests the house to debate on the above issues on education in our country and kindly endorse the proposals for most expeditious and urgent action by the government,” said Dorji Wangdi.

The Minister for Education faltered and got nowhere near answering the question from the Opposition. The Education Blueprint, he said, is not a policy but a road map to improve the quality of education in the country.

By Jigme Wangchuk

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