Lhakpa Quendren

With the reintroduction of the English teaching programme at Zhemgang Monastic School, the enthusiasm for learning English among the monks remains vibrant.

Recognising the benefits of the English language, the monastic school, with support from Zhemgang’s education sector, has reinstated the programme, which was discontinued a year ago due to a lack of English teachers.

Zhemgang’s Lam Neten, Karma Galey, emphasised the significant need and desire for monks to acquire English language skills. He said, “It is important for monks to have basic reading and writing skills to contribute to a modern education system that will provide essential knowledge for their future.”

A few years ago, the government recruited additional English teachers for many monastic schools. However, this initiative was later discontinued, posing a challenge for monastic schools to strengthen and sustain English teaching.

According to Lam Neten, the English teaching programme, formerly led by a non-formal education instructor, had to be discontinued when the instructor transitioned to a formal teaching profession.

In collaboration with teachers from Zhemgang Primary School, the dzongkhag education sector has supported the initiative to teach English to 24 monks at various levels. English classes are being conducted twice a week after school since July 2023.

To foster effective communication skills in reading, writing, listening, and speaking, the programme includes basic English comprehension such as grammar, descriptive writing, reading comprehension, and parts of speech, among others.

Zhemgang’s chief education officer, Pelden Wangmo, stressed the importance of English as a global and secondary language in addition to monastic learning.

She said, “Since many monks are school dropouts; these initiatives provide continuous learning and growth to help them be better prepared for the future.”

The plan is that such initiatives in close collaboration with schools can be fostered and will not compromise teachers’ workload at school, she added.

Monastic schools, offering a traditional approach to education, provide a counterweight of meaning, wisdom, and possibility in today’s fast-changing world.

Tshering Pelden, a teacher from Zhemgang Primary School, highlighted that teaching English not only helps monks interact with foreign audiences but also enables them to share and showcase the cultural essence of Buddhism.

She said, “This will help the monks put their experiences into words in the initial learning phases, while also helping them take their learning and skills acquired into a larger audience beyond their immediate surroundings.”

The programme has progressed to teaching monks sentence structure, aiming to enhance their communication skills and broaden their ideas. A class test was conducted to assess the learners and evaluate the programme’s effectiveness.

Historically, education in Buddhist monasteries in Bhutan primarily focused on scriptures and beliefs. However, there is now a growing interest in subjects like English, with monks showing great enthusiasm and appreciation for this new educational opportunity.