…Officials in Thimphu claim all schools now equipped with ICT systems

KP Sharma 

Despite the implementation of the Digital School Flagship Programme in  the 12th Plan and declaring it a success,  challenges abound in effectively implementing the ICT curriculum, especially in schools  in remote Bhutan. 

The disparities in infrastructure, access to technology, and availability of trained IT teachers are among the top issues.

While officials from the education ministry claim that all schools are now equipped with ICT systems, the practical implementation of some projects requiring IT facilities remains a hurdle due to lack of facilities.Under the Digital Flagship Programme, the digital school initiative aims to digitise schools across all dzongkhags and enhance the digital competencies of both teachers and students. 

In addition, it is also aimed at developing systems that enables schools to leverage online educational content, empowering students to better prepare for productive contributions in the 21st century.

The project has successfully implemented an education management information System (EMIS) as a centralised repository for all data related to students, teachers, and various aspects of education. However, exacerbating the situation, the government mandated the inclusion of the ICT curriculum as a compulsory subject from pre-primary (PP) to class XII in 2021.

Complicating matters further, media reports indicate that teachers trained to instruct in ICT have departed from the system. 

In response to these challenges, the Education and Skill Development Minister, Yeezang De Thapa, acknowledged the issues during a recent Meet-the-Press session. Despite the provision of IT equipment to schools, Lyonpo highlighted the lack of facilities, particularly in schools in remote areas.

Further, she acknowledged  the existence of internet connectivity issues in schools. She assured that the government has allocated a substantial budget in the 13th Plan to enhance ICT infrastructure in schools, with a specific focus on procuring additional computers. 

Lyonpo also committed to addressing internet connectivity challenges to ensure the seamless delivery of the curriculum.

Regarding the shortage of IT teachers, Lyonpo stated that the ministry is actively exploring various avenues to address this issue. 

She added that efforts include hiring potential IT teachers from the market and reaching out to teachers who have voluntarily resigned but express interest in returning to the system.

Lyonpo assured that the ministry is fully committed to leaving no stone unturned in making necessary facilities available in all schools as part of the 13th Plan.

System error?

The challenges faced by schools in implementing the IT curriculum are evident, as highlighted by a principal who informed the absence of a single desktop in his school.

The principal urged the government to provide facilities comparable to those in urban schools. Currently, the school manages with just five laptops, adjusting classes accordingly. 

Worsening the matters, the teacher handling the IT subject is not trained in IT and  uses online materials for self-learning and teaching.

Teachers, also feel the challenges of the inadequate IT facilities, particularly as they are individually assessed on the useage of IT during lessons. 

The Bhutan Professional Standards for Teachers (BPST) requires the use of IT as a teaching tool, but the lack of projectors and reliable internet connectivity in schools is a hurdle. 

Teachers question the feasibility of such evaluations when basic facilities are limited, making their jobs more challenging and burdensome.

 “How can we use IT in teaching when the school does not have a limited number of projectors and when we do not have  reliable internet connection?” said the teacher.

A mentor teacher who goes for assessing his mentees admitted to making exemptions and rating mentees for IT usage. “I know they do their best but sometimes there are things that they cannot manage and it’s not their fault either,” he added

It is learnt that some schools have sought community support in procuring IT equipment through donations to facilitate the learning for both teachers and students.