… except for schools in the four thromdes 

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Except for the schools in the four thromdes, all schools will function in containment mode this time during lockdowns hereafter. The classes will be conducted face-face.

According to the Sherig Lyonpo (Education Minister), Jai Bir Rai, the ministry after extensive scrutiny has recently approved the plan made by respective dzongkhags and thromdes on the operation during a lockdown. “This preparation is to make sure we’re prepared this time if there is any lockdown.”

Sherig Lyonpo said that all 609 schools were asked to prepare plans on how to respond to future lockdowns to ensure studies are not disturbed. 

Last year, classes for PP-VIII remained closed the entire year.

Lyonpo said that as per the plan it was found more convenient to function schools in self-containment mode in dzongkhags where students and teachers would be called to school immediately after lockdown is declared.

“Where there are no hostel facilities, the dzongkhag administration will prepare to accommodate students even if they have to pitch tents. But arrangements are definitely planned,” lyonpo said.

The plan is also expected to help those students who cannot afford to buy gadgets or lack internet connectivity to learn online.

For schools in thromdes, where many schools do not have boarding facilities, lyonpo said that self-containment was found impossible because of the large number of students.

“Learning from experiences, we’ve asked schools to train students on how to study online by letting them bring a mobile phone, maybe once in a week,” Lyonpo claimed.

Schools should mentally prepare students for online classes. But this time, there will be proper online classes, according to Sherig Lyonpo.

“We must give them the feeling of a classroom environment including attending classes in uniforms or national attire. Otherwise, we had cases where students or teachers were seen attending classes online while sleeping in their bed,” he said.

Lyonpo said that with all planned the ministry was 60 percent confident and that its preparedness was far better than last year.

Meanwhile, there is no concrete strategy for students with disabilities but Lyonpo said that institutes can function in containment mode too. 

However, Lyonpo said that ministry might have to plan a strategy to help students with disabilities especially for those studying in regular schools that provide special education needs.

In terms of internet data, the ministry has registered phone numbers of almost 200,000 students with two telecom companies and they would be given additional data during the lockdown.

The ministry trained about 10,000 teachers in pedagogy on online teaching using Google Classroom or other social media applications.

Meanwhile, the same plan will also apply during the interim lockdown or smart lockdown or 72-hour lockdown.

As for the budget, Lyonpo said that the respective dzongkhag could allocate a budget for such plans, but even if they have to re-appropriate the budget for such plans or immediate action, the government will replenish the budget later.

Last year, apart from challenges in conducting online classes, the biggest issue was too many instructions from various authorities that confused schools. Lyonpo said that this time schools will comply with directives signed by the ministry’s secretary or the director general.

“For now, plans are in place. There is always an issue during implementation but we have to be ready,” Lyonpo said.

Edited by Tshering Palden