The education ministry, on the command of the Prime Minister, has decided to launch the National School Drama Competition 2024. This is by far, many say, the best decision of the education minister since taking office a couple of months ago.

The national level competition is aimed at reviving ancient drama theatre and provide a platform for students to showcase their literary and dramatic talents. Drama, performing arts or plays are  vital parts of wholesome education, like Lyonpo Yeezang De Thapa said. They  foster creativity,  critical thinking and emotional intelligence. 

These activities also encourage teamwork, communication skills and many others important for personal and academic growth. Many officials in the decision-making level including in the education ministry grew up acting or watching their friends act at annual school drama, some of which are taken around the country as a part of extracurricular activities. Some of us remember, fondly, the dramas based on our namthars (biographies)  or Shakespeare’s plays.

It was not just an entertainment for the public before the introduction of cable television and the internet. It provided a dynamic, engaging learning environment, making education enjoyable and effective. Above all, even if not intended, it played a crucial role in promoting performing arts, the national language and exposure to students at all levels.

The competition this year targets at classic, contemporary, or Bhutanese short play, in English. We can look forward to the competitions. However, it would add more value if the dramas of the past in Dzongkha, the national language, could be reintroduced. At a time when many, parents and children, are finding speaking or reading Dzongkha difficult, art could be a medium through which we can promote and preserve the national language.

School authorities, parents and children, are creative in presenting English plays. Everybody wants to participate. Some schools deliberately choose Dzongkha plays, conscious of the importance of Dzongkha. Some are impressive as presentation and creativity are enhanced by leveraging technology and the resources available. 

A primary school recently conducted a singing competition. Students as young as seven sang both rigsar and boedra songs beautifully to the astonishment of even the parents. The immediate reaction was that a lot has to be done in Dzongkha – lozay, tsamo, and story telling competitions.

Plays, dramas, and items presented at school “varieties shows” could be a good way to help learn the national language. When the medium of teaching, seven out of eight periods, is in English, students will obviously find learning Dzongkha difficult. Co-curricular activities in the national language could  help them speak Dzongkha better.

Left on their own, the videos, shorts or reels that children watch on social media, in English, are making children as young as three speak English before they can learn the first Dzongkha word.