The education ministry has announced that the 12th Plan will focus on teacher development initiatives. The requirement of a master‘s degree for teachers is among the plans the ministry wants to implement to empower our teachers.
It plans to provide housing, professional development training, and laptops to teachers. These initiatives are good and if backed with research, even progressive. Reforms rolled out in the education sector must keep pace with the teachers and empowering them would help rethink and transform education to be relevant in a digital age.
There is, however, a need to assess the impacts of some of the initiatives taken in the education sector. At the education dialogue yesterday, the education minister said that for the first time, the ministry has provided 40 hours of professional development training to 9,000 teachers at a cost of Nu 100 million. How has this training empowered the teachers to empower students with the knowledge and skills required in a changing society? What impact have such initiatives had in retaining our teachers because even as the ministry was providing professional development, it also relieved 345 teachers last year, the highest the ministry has recorded in a decade‘s time.
At a time when a discourse has begun to rethink education for the future, we need to ask what these changes signify for education and how does education respond? For even while being pre-occupied with the pressures of the present, education must anticipate the future.
One example of responsive pedagogy that has been initiated for classes X and XII is teaching World History without textbook. It was found that the existing text was irrelevant and that its content was, in the words of the education minister, a terrible obstruction to learning. Despite challenges, schools and teachers appear to be responsive to the idea of teaching without textbooks because it allows the teachers and students to grow and learn.
Technology is an enabler and its potential must be tapped. But we must also be wary of its reach. The whole country may be on cellular network, but it doesn’t mean that all schools have access to Internet. The education ministry has plans to strengthen Internet connectivity in schools in the 12th Plan, but some schools need to be equipped with basic resources first. For schools such as Tsamang Primary School in Mongar, access to safe drinking water and decent classrooms is a luxury.
As Bhutan inches towards educating for the future, it has to also address the current issues that hinder teaching and learning. Educating for the future and the reforms that are to follow for the teachers and students must be an inclusive learning exercise, not mere rhetoric.