Education: The science curriculum reform for classes IV to XII will be completed by next year, according to Royal Education Council  (REC).

“The science curriculum reform cycle will be concluded with the implementation of three science subjects for classes X and XII in 2017,”  REC Curricullum  Development Centre curriculum specialist Wangpo Tenzin said.

REC has been reforming science subjects for classes IV to XII. “The development of science textbooks and manuals for classes IV, IX and XI were completed and implemented from 2013 academic session,” a REC circular on education ministry’s website stated.

The reformed science textbooks such as physics, chemistry and biology for classes X and XII will be introduced from 2017. “Physics, chemistry and biology practical work manuals for classes XI and XII would also be introduced from next academic session.”

Dzongkhags and thromdes have been notified to proceed with necessary arrangements to procure the new science textbooks for the 2017 academic session.

The dzongkhags will, however, start the procurement works only after receiving the list of the reformed science subjects from the centre.

Bumthang’s education officer, Karma Chophel, said: “Upon the receipt of the list we will compile the requirement based on the number of students in respective dzongkhags.”

As of general science for classes IV and VI, was implemented from 2013 after the reform. Integrated science for classes VII and VIII was implemented in 2014 and 2015. Science curriculum with distinct branches such as physics, chemistry and biology for classes IX and XI were developed and implemented in 2016. Science subjects for PP to III however will be taught as an integral part of environmental science in Dzongkha.

“A five-day orientation workshop was conducted for over 730 primary Science teachers in 10 locations with financial assistance from UNICEF,” Wangpo Tenzin said. “In 2014, about 350 lower secondary science teachers were also oriented on the teaching of the reformed science subjects.”

REC said that reform was done following increasing pressure pertaining to quality, content and relevance and changing educational needs. Thus, a study on the needs assessment of science education was conducted in 2007 and 2008 by two consultants from the University of Oxford, UK, with support from UNESCO.

Based on the study’s recommendations the science subjects were reformed. It was found that curriculum from PP to XII lacked proper progression. The study also found that integrated science for classes VII and VIII  was biology-oriented, while the curriculum at secondary level was content laden. Teachers also needed professional capacity-building opportunities.

“Participation rate at class XII in science education in Bhutan was also found less compared to some Asian countries,” Wangpo Tenzin said. “Time allocated was also less.”

Learning science through “learning by doing” ideology dominated the former curriculum according to REC. The 21st century education concept, however, espouses learning from hands-on experience to more cognitive career-based education, life skills and information technology.

This change necessitated an overhaul of the school science curriculum from classes IV to XII.

Unlike the former curriculum, the reformed science curriculum offers a variety of cognitive and physical challenges to children. “Therefore, learning activities attempt to provide avenues to engage learners in field trips, library research, project work, maintaining journal to record their daily observations in the locality,” Wangpo Tenzin said.

“The new textbooks contain weblinks to text materials and software for scientific drawing and simulations to facilitate science teachers and students to integrate ICT in the teaching and learning.” REC will also introduce system for teachers to use toll-free services to seek professional support.

REC said that the books are designated to conceptual strands of life processes, materials and their properties and physical processes.

“The strand, life process provides content knowledge on biological world (biology),” Wangpo Tenzin said. “The material properties and physical process provide in-depth understanding and knowledge on the chemical properties of materials (chemistry). Its force, work, energy and changes in the universe will furnish knowledge in physics.”

Wangpo Tenzin said that learning outcome would be measured at five key stages- from classes PP to III, IV to VI, VII to VIII, IX to X and XI to XII. The practical works of class X are integrated in the form of activities.

For class XII, a single project work will be a mini research spanning two years starting from class XI, culminating to 10 marks in Bhutan Higher Secondary Education Certificate.

Tempa Wangdi