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Tough plan for Bhutan

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Not only is it overwhelming but audacious to hear that the Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC) is going all the way in changing the system of education in Bhutan to promote the national language of the country (DDC's proposals seek to bring parity between English and Dzongkha in schools, Kuensel issue 28 May, 2011). The initiative taken by the DDC means well for anyone in Bhutan would definitely like to be competent in both Dzongkha (the national language) and English (an international language). However, we have some reservations in the way DDC is approaching it. While Bhutan needs to give more importance to our national language we should not be changing everything in the system in haste. We need to take time to plan and put enough resources in place before we jump to the conclusion of changing things. I believe the decision should not only remain to a few stake holders like the DDC, the education ministry and the curriculum department alone. I believe it is the responsibility of everyone involved in the government, the trainers, the researchers, the educators and the parents alike to work it out in the right direction. This is about a big fundamental change in the lives of our children, our future nation builders? Can we risk the changes in their lives without paying more close attention and participating more meticulously? This is a wakeup call for all of us in the society to discuss which way we want our children to be educated. First of all, what's wrong in having English as the medium of English in Bhutan? I believe education has contributed significantly to Bhutan's rapid development, in line with its philosophy of GNH. Being educated in English has enabled Bhutanese students to study in all parts of the world, earning degrees in many areas from accounting to medicine to engineering, and to return to Bhutan to apply their knowledge and skills. Secondly, the change in medium of instruction from PP-III has prompted me with more questions than ever. Why Maths and Environmental studies should be taught in Dzongkha from PP-III? I mean why only these two subjects and not the others? What are the children expected to do once they are in class four? Will they continue studying the subjects in Dzongkha or they will have to change it to English? Have you thought of the repercussions it might have on the children for having to switch back and forth between two different languages? Don't you think it will create a gap in literacy provision for the learners, particularly those defined as 'educationally disadvantage' or at 'risk'? Conceivably the theory of learning to read and reading to learn belongs here most perfectly than anywhere else. The initial years of schooling (i.e. PP-III) are the very crucial years in a child's education life. This is when the 'learning to read stage' begins, and eventually when they get to fourth grade it is prescribed as the 'reading to learn stage' that's when they are expected to start applying the reading skills that they have learnt so far expecting them to do most of the reading on their own. It's about that time that schooling gets more complex and demands higher-order- thinking skills. It is very evident from the fact that in Bhutan, the repetition rate between 1998 and 2008 from pre primary to Year 10 indicates that grade four had the highest annual average repetitions were highest in grade four in the past six years ranging from 14% in 2003 to 10.5% in 2008 (General Statistics, 2008). When grade four is already going through a considerable transition why exacerbate the situation with more discrepancy? This in every respect is supported by research that if, efficient reading skills are not established by the time they reach fourth grade the path is blocked to almost every subject they encounter in their school life since schooling gets more complex and demanding as you go higher up the schooling ladder.

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