School curriculum revised and rationalised

On the recommendations of the Bhutan Education Blueprint 2014-2024, National School Curriculum Conference 2016 and the resolution of the 19th National Education Conference, the Royal Education Council has revised and rationalised school curriculum and instructional time.

Irrelevant and obsolete contents from textbooks have been screened out, errors rectified and information updated. The schools have already begun to incorporate the changes even as new textbooks are expected to be available only next year. Transition, however, is not seen as a problem because teachers are provided with a guidebook a sort.

There has been a major shift in the education sector lately. With the idea of 21st century education came the need to rethink school curriculum in the backdrop of changing economic and development realities of the country. What followed was National School Curriculum Conference in 2016 at different­­ levels—school, dzongkhag, and nation that came up with no less than 18 recommendations.

Based on the recommendations of the NSCC, REC developed new curriculum frameworks for 10 subjects—History, Geography,  Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), Accountancy, Commerce, Economics, Social Studies, Values Education (draft form), Media Studies (draft), Bhutan Civics (draft). Many subjects still do not have curriculum framework, which makes measuring learning standards and outcomes of a subject challenging.

Then came the new government with new pledges for the education sector. From 2020 academic session, Classes PP to III will have no examinations. Most radical of the changes has been doing away with the removal of cut-off mark for Class 10. All these, in the light of challenges facing the education sector such as the declining quality of education, shortage of teachers, inadequate infrastructure and rising youth unemployment, demand a change.

Is rationalisation of school curriculum and instructional time the answer?

Maybe, maybe not.

REC developed and implemented the textbook-less curriculum for Class XI-XII World History from 2017 academic session. The rationale was to move away from the traditional system of heavily textbook-based teaching-learning approach and to make students more creative, critical, analytical and research-based learners. Schools say that this is a way better system. However, much will depend on the access to information, particularly in the remote schools.

Infusion of EVS into language curricula and integration of place-base education is another which has the real potential to teach students about local environment, society, culture, history, economy which they can relate to the world beyond. Most interesting of all is the digitalisation of curriculum materials. Studies have found that Bhutanese students are carrying more weight than they should that hampers their learning capacity. Digital textbook prototype for Class V ICT will be piloted in ten selected schools this year and digital textbooks will start with Class V ICT in 2020.

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is to be included as the fourth stream. Curriculum Framework for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and developed the teaching-learning materials (TLMs) in nine selected trades has been developed. The curriculum is expected to be implemented for classes IX-XII as optional subjects in the seven selected pilot schools starting from the academic year 2020.

Differentiated Curriculum in Science and Mathematics for Classes IX and X is expected to offer more options and flexibility for students in terms of their education and career pathways. What this means is that two types of curriculum in both Science and Mathematics will be offered: Science A—Physics, Chemistry, and Biology—for those who are interested, good at and want to pursue higher studies in science. Science B, which will be just a functional science for those who are not interested and have no aptitude to study it further. Likewise, Mathematics A will be offered to those who are good at and interested in, and Mathematics B will be just a functional one for those who have neither interest nor aptitude for hard mathematics. At the heart of this idea is the opportunity for specialisation. For this, needs assessment and feasibility studies have been done and curriculum development project is expected to begin by 2020.

Jigme Wangchuk

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