School principals share experience from immersion programme

Education: If central schools in the country are to function at its best, a lot of issues needs to be ironed out, according to school principals.

At the post-immersion meeting between 61 principals of central and autonomous schools and education ministry yesterday in Thimphu, four broad frameworks was discussed to improving performance of central schools. The 61 principals were on a two-week immersion programme in India where they visited residential schools.

The frameworks mandate to have a strong administrative unit in schools, identify and empower non-performing principals, discourage frequent transfer of principals and retain good teachers under the organisation development category.

Presenting the draft framework, Punakha High School Principal, Yesh Bdr Ghalley said retaining teachers who perform well has been a challenge, but retaining them was important for better performance of the school.

Yesh Bdr Ghalley said the curriculum development in Bhutan currently is vast and rigid. It needs be developed according to needs.

“Our assessment is focused more on academic unlike schools in India that have balanced focus,” he said adding that improving teacher competency was another important area of concern.

Principals were of the view that while the education sector is reforming, teachers are overburdened with work. They are not able to cope up with the changes that have brought extra responsibilities. Also most trained teachers have become redundant.

“Teacher and principal motivation mechanism should be in place through certain incentives,” states the draft framework.

Principal felt that the 40:60 ratio of stipend between schools and Food Corporation of Bhutan was not sensible because it was hindering schools in meeting menu requirement of students.

Keeping teachers within the campus for better care of students was seen important as most of the teachers, more than 70 percent of them, in boarding schools live outside the campus.

Presenting the experience from the two-week immersion programme, Bayling High School Principal, Younten Jamtsho said the programme was timely considering the criticism education was receiving on its quality.

After comparing and contradicting practices in Bhutan and schools the principal’s visited, a list of reflections was worked out.

Need for shifting from academic to wholesome education, introducing induction programme for new teachers despite their training, separating management of administration and instruction and improving pay packages for central school teachers were some of the issues principals felt that needs to be addressed.

“If reading habits are to be inculcated in our students, hostel should have libraries,” Principal Younten Jamtsho said. “Creating school museum and alumni association is also necessary.”

On the resource category, Drugyel Higher Secondary School principal Karma Tshering said that not all the proposed budget is approved, which resulted in inadequate budget. School budget needs to be approved on case-by-case basis.

Meanwhile education secretary, Sangay Zam said that it was important to see where Bhutan stands in terms of education as numerous changes are undergoing.  She said principals are key in the improvement of schools.

Education minister Mingbo Dukpa said that the immersion programme was a small but significant programme to improve the school competency.

“One important task as a principal and educationist is to look after the interest of individual child,” he said. “Review your pastoral care and do not take too much of a child’s time unnecessarily.”

He added that in another two weeks, the operation guideline for central schools will be reviewed and another document will be developed that will be useful for all schools.

The draft framework, after reviewing it, will be compiled and sent to all schools by beginning next year for implementation.

Nirmala Pokhrel