Royal University of Bhutan’s (RUB) Vice Chancellor, Nidup Dorji, said that Universal Human Values (UHV) incorporated in all the colleges affiliated to RUB are not derived from Jeevan Vidya (JV) propounded by Shree A. Nagraj.

Nidup Dorji said the UHV is conducted in the form of workshop or training for the first year students as a part of orientation, not as a course or module, and is based on the basic fundamental UHV.

“We’re just dealing with basic values like kindness, trust, affection, care, guidance, reverence, gratitude, love, and compassion,” Nidup Dorji said. “We don’t talk about ideology, different religions or deeper philosophical human values, which are not only difficult to disseminate but also to learn.”

Nidup Dorji added thatteaching human values in colleges are only aimed to bring change in students’ perspectives, way of thinking, and to make them responsible. The values are basic Buddhist fundamental values that people deal with everyday irrespective of place or religion, he said.

“But we’ve not incorporated Jeevan Vidya in any colleges. In fact, it is not even a credited module in the university, as it couldn’t pass through the standard module,” Nidup Dorji said. “We are not teaching it as formal module or course.”

Recently, questions were raised on whether UHV derived from Jeevan Vidya was compatible with Buddhism and that introduction of such values needed a proper research. Jeevan Vidya means universal human values.

“We discussed and decided not to react to the article because the fact is that we haven’t incorporated Jeevan Vidya in the curriculum,” Nidup Dorji said. “We just respect their analysis and the writer has the right to share his opinion.”

The UHV is an interactive session beside specific subjects students learn, the Vice Chancellor said. RUB is looking at what benefits it has on children to help them co-exist peacefully.

However, Nidup Dorji said a workshop was conducted few years ago to promote Jeevan Vidya. “That is how the workshop on values began, but it was entirely based on the Bhutanese perspective and relevant to Bhutanese values. We contextualise for the workshop without separating the Bhutanese context from outside.”

“The Jeevan Vidya was experimented once in College of Science and Technology, but the idea was shot down.”

Although most colleges under the RUB disseminate UHV, the faculty members Kuensel spoke to refute the allegation that it was based on the Jeevan Vidya propounded by Shree A. Nagraj. Most of the colleges conduct UHV as a workshop or a part of orientation for the newcomers for few days or a week.

Tandin Chhophel, assistant professor of Gaeddu College of Business Studies, said the UHV taught at the college was more to do with basic values relevant in Bhutanese context and nothing related to philosophy or in-depth values.

Jigme Namgyel Engineering College’s president, Andu Dukpa, said the UHV conducted in the college was entirely basic values based on the contents the faculty members have learned from the workshop and conference on UHV they attended earlier.  “The values that we teach as a part of orientation is only values and not related to any religion.”

Dorji Thinley, the president of Samtse College of Education, said the UHV workshop in the college has been discontinued to develop materials for UHV that is more locally relevant. “We’re working on it,” he said, adding that the values taught earlier were based on the conference they had attended with resources from within and abroad.

Lungtaen Gyatso, the president of College of Language and Culture Studies, said the word UHV or Jeevan Vidya means the same and that what is being taught in the colleges are basic universal values anywhere like respect, gratitude, reverence, love, trust and care, among others. “UHV means universal values and it has nothing to do with whether it is Buddhism or any other religion or country. It’s just values that are being inculcated in the students and not contradictory to Buddhism.”

Education Minister Norbu Wangchuk clarified that UHV as propounded by one Shree A Nagraj has neither been incorporated into the school curriculum nor adopted into programmes.

Lyonpo said that although the Royal Education Council and the ministry conducted a comprehensive review of school curriculum in 2016 the UHV never appeared in any of the discourses.

“The Ministry would like to confirm that Jeevan Vidya has not been incorporated into the curriculum and there are no plans to do it,” Lyonpo said. “The value education in our schools are anchored in our rich heritage of culture, tradition, values of Lay Jumdrey and Tha Damtsi.”

A multi-pronged approach was adopted to impart value education where teachers infuse value teaching and learning into school activities and subjects including the right modelling of values.

During the last education conference, the ministry decided to have a separate curriculum to promote deliberate teaching of values in schools by developing value education curriculum.

This value education curriculum is currently being piloted in some schools.

Yangchen C Rinzin