KP Sharma   

The Education and Skill Development Minister, Yeezang De Thapa, has clarified that there should be no confusion among stakeholders regarding the declaration of Saturday as an off day in schools.

This clarification comes amid ongoing discussions among teachers and students about the lack of clear directives.

Some have even taken to social media to criticise the principals for requiring attendance on Saturdays, which they believe should be a day off.

Lyonpo explained that the decision to keep schools completely off or to plan activities on Saturdays depends on each school.

She said that teachers, students and parents should support and collaborate with the principals in this regard.

The directive issued by the minister on May 3 stated that schools are to continue classes without interrupting instructional hours.

In addition, it asks schools to plan and implement professional development (PD) for teachers accordingly.

Clarifying the directives, Lyonpo explained that schools need to allocate time for PD for teachers, which can be scheduled at any convenient time, such as after school hours or on Saturdays.

“PD programmes should be planned and are mandatory for teachers,” Lyonpo said.

Teachers are required to complete 20 hours of PD programmes annually, and it is up to each school to determine how to organise and manage time.

She suggested that schools could use a few Saturdays for these programmes or manage them after school hours if they prefer not to hold sessions on Saturdays.

“School usually gets over by 3:30 or 4:00 PM, and even after that, they can spend an hour on PD or other programs and keep Saturdays free,” Lyonpo added.

Addressing concerns about some schools calling students and teachers to participate in gardening or site development activities, Lyonpo said that schools could use after-school hours for such activities and exempt those travelling from faraway places.

Lyonpo added that even if schools plan such activities on a few Saturdays, it should not be a major issue, as the school community, including teachers, students, and principals shares collective responsibility.

“The school belongs to all the teachers and students, not just the principal,” Lyonpo said.

Regarding the trimming of syllabus and curriculum as suggested by experts, the minister said that the report would be out at the end of the month and there will be a review on it.

A teacher from one of the primary schools said that currently, professional development programme and extra-curricular activities were scheduled on alternate Saturdays for the convenience of both teachers and students.

Some schools organise their literary and co-curricular activities on weekdays and keep Saturdays off, except for major programmes or events.

This approach is aimed at balancing the needs of the school community while ensuring adequate time for both academic and extra-curricular pursuits.

Keeping Saturdays off was a major pledge of the government, and it was officially declared as an off day by the Prime Minister on May 2, during the occasion of Teacher’s Day at Changlimithang.