The education minister has announced that history will continue to be taught in English, at least for now. This is the correct move. The education system needs to be ready before we make the switch.
But the National Council is also right. Given that it is the national language, Dzongkha is not receiving the priority it deserves in the education system. As a result, they rationalise, too many are graduating still weak in Dzongkha.
We agree, more material should be taught in Dzongkha but we must be careful in determining what is taught in Dzongkha. When it was required that history be taught in Dzongkha a few years ago, the problem was that the government expected teachers not specialised in Dzongkha to switch their medium of instruction. The effort failed.
We have learned, as indicated by the education minister’s decision that before we make another switch, it is important that we have teachers not only specialised in Dzongkha but in the subject they intend to teach as well.
Once we have enough teachers competent in both Dzongkha and the particular subject, then we should convert the medium of instruction in some subjects to the national language.
However, it is essential we find out which subjects can be taught in Dzongkha. The Council asks that history, civics and social studies be taught in Dzongkha.
It is imperative that the education ministry and the Dzongkha Development Commission, and other concerned agencies, ensure that the content of the textbooks, learning material, and terminology, among others, are sufficient or simple enough to allow these subjects to be understood by the young student.
Before we go with a blanket switch, it would be worth undertaking pilot tests and obtaining feedback from both teachers and students. Perhaps, some chapters can be switched to Dzongkha first and teaching-learning piloted. Perhaps we may find out that only certain subjects or sections should be taught in Dzongkha and the other in English.
Some on social media have commented that students are weak in the fundamentals of Dzongkha and therefore how the national language is taught should receive focus first. Others feel that this is caused because students do not get to practise enough what they are taught.
Whatever the reason, it is important that we do not rush in without enough empirical research because any further mistakes would only hamper the strengthening of the national language in our education sector.