Ministry exploring plans if closure continues

Yangchen C Rinzin

The Ministry of Education is exploring ways to come up with a contingency plan if schools have to remain closed for more than the two weeks announced.

All schools, including private schools in Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Phuentsholing, and Wangdiphodrang were closed following the first COVID-19 case in the country.

The concern among school authorities and parents now is completing the syllabus on time for losing two weeks of instructional classes.

Education minister Jai Bir Rai said that although the department of school and education is already working on the plans, the ministry could not come up with immediate plans to make up for the loss of two weeks.

“We were caught off -guard, so no accurate measures are there to keep students engaged or continue the lessons through other alternatives,” Lyonpo said. “However, a group of teachers have come up with ideas and we’re looking into the possibility as of now.”

Lyonpo said that ministry is exploring if classes could be conducted online or other means if schools remain closed after two weeks.  Emergency preparedness is also expected to be in place, according to the minister.

“We’re trying to do something right now with the help of volunteer teachers instead of remaining idle,” Lyonpo added. “We’re also looking into if we can cover the classes lost during this summer break, but nothing has been finalised yet.”

However, schools are already trying out initiatives to keep students engaged. Some are planning extra classes while others are thinking of making Saturdays teaching days to cover the lesson students would miss. The government did away with instructional classes on Saturdays from last year and schools carry only co-curricular activities on Saturdays.

Teachers are also riding on information and communication technology (ICT) conducting virtual learning education (VLE). However, given the lack of internet and other facilities, it is restricted to only a few schools.

Private schools in the capital use social media applications to keep students engaged. The students are provided homework, classwork, and project work to complete during the two-week long closure.

Nima Higher Secondary School has successfully operationalised VLE from March 9 with the intention to keep students engaged at home. The school completed teaching two subjects through VLE as of yesterday.

Principal Dechen Dolkar said that the management had already developed VLE about two weeks ago and teachers were also trained. She said there was also a plan to orientate students on March 6, however, the news on COVID-19 derailed it.

The principal said that at least 93 percent of the students have registered for online lessons where a timetable has also been prepared for each subject. “The aim was to keep students engaged and not to hurry to complete the syllabus. VLE is working successfully,” she said. “We had worked on this as contingency plan when the first COVID-19 broke out in China.”

Dechen Dolkar said this is how the school managed to engage 33 boarders who are still in the schools using the IT laboratory.

Meanwhile, some schools have readied their own contingency plans when schools reopen.

Keeping hand sanitisers, soaps, disinfecting school facilities are some of the common plans.

Teachers also keep in touch with parents through social media applications and ensure students are updated on the COVID-19 including creating awareness.