In 1994, UNESCO declared October 5 as the World Teacher’s Day. The day is observed to appreciate, assess, and improve the educators of the nation. It has been found that the teachers, who educate the future nation builders, are often not given the respect they deserve. The observance of Teacher’s Day is a platform to discuss issues pertaining to teachers and find solutions so that they can enhance and deliver quality services with full interest and vigour. World Teacher Day would, thus, help recognise and celebrate the effort of all the teachers.

The fact that UNESCO had declared a day and that India also had started observing the day every September 5 was the reason for observance of the day in Bhutan. In India, Teacher’s Day on September 5 coincides with the birthday of the second President of India, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1962-1967). While Sarvepalli was in office, some friends and students approached him to celebrate his birth anniversary but he told them he would appreciate it if it were celebrated as Teacher’s Day. Since then, September 5 has been observed as India’s Teacher’s Day.

Bhutan’s Teacher’s Day has a similar beginning. I wish to share my passionate involvement, in my own little ways, in support of a Teacher’s Day in Bhutan. However, I believe that some of our fellow teachers may have also thought and acted upon Teacher’s Day.

Sometime in 1995, in Peljorling primary school at Sibsoo in Samtse, a group of senior students approached me to observe Teacher’s Day. They approached me on August 25 in order to prepare for September 5 coinciding with the India’s Teacher’s Day. The day was observed in the school. The eventful day and the idea stuck with me deeply. Slowly, I started to support the cause. The idea was consulted with fellow teachers in the school and they gave full support by making it an agenda for discussion during the head teachers’ meeting in the dzongkhag. However, I could not pursue it further in Samtse then, as the meeting was postponed and I was transferred to Yonphula junior high school in Trashigang.

A similar turn of events came up at Yonphula too. The students, led by their captains, were allowed to observe the Teacher’s Day on September 5. I participated in the day but grew a bit skeptical of the date, which was chosen for India only. At Yongphula too, I took the support of teachers and with further support from the dzongdag, Dasho (Dr) Sonam Tenzin, and DEO, Sonam Tshering, an agenda on observing Teacher’s Day was forwarded for discussion in the annual education conference of 1998. Nothing was heard from the conference about the agenda. And before long, I was transferred to Thimphu.

In 2001, I saw the schools in Thimphu were also observing Teacher’s Day informally on September 5. In 2002, I once again began to push the idea for a formal recognition of Teacher’s Day. My years of experience and the understanding of the system in place helped me a lot while working to achieve a new idea. It is often the manoeuvre at the right time with the support of the right people that you get to see the cause you support get through for implementation. I once again began floating the idea and getting the support of teachers, head teachers and principals. The formalisation of Teacher’s Day not only received the support of Thimphu teachers but also of Dzongdag Dasho Karma Dorji and DEO, Tshewang Choden of Thimphu. A letter was sent to the Ministry of Education from Thimphu Dzongkhag.

The secretary of education, Dasho (Dr) Pema Thinley and director of school education, Tshewang Tandin, supported the idea. The agenda was once again floated in the Annual Education Conference in 2002 and the participants supported the idea. Since every country has their own date for Teacher’s Day, the conference started to discuss the date in details: the birth dates of Guru Rinpoche, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, and His Majesty the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck became priorities for discussion because of their contribution to the country. May 2, the birthday of the Father of Modern Bhutan, His Majesty the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, received unanimous support in resonance with his introduction of the modern education system in Bhutan.

The green signal from the conference to the Thimphu dzongkhag was a huge achievement. On May 2, 2003, Thimphu schools geared to celebrate the first Teacher’s Day at Kelki high school, supported by dzongdag Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen, DEO Karma Wangchuk, and the Scouts Association of Thimphu. The chief guest, minister of education, Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup, announced to the nation at 7.30pm, the importance of Teacher’s Day and that Bhutan will thereafter observe it on May 2 coinciding with the birth anniversary of the Third King.

On that eventful day, May 2, 2003, formal recognition for Teacher’s Day in Bhutan was provided.

I wish a very happy Teacher’s Day for all the past, present and future teachers.

Contributed by

Tandin Dorji

Former ADEO,