Speaking to graduates of the Samtse College of Education in 2009, His Majesty the King said. “Do not, however, let the light of education ever go out. For if it should become dark, even for a moment, we will find that generations of our children will suffer its effects and the light on a bright future for our nation will take decades to shine again.” These golden words speak volumes about the importance of education for a Nation and its people. It is no coincidence that the Right to basic education is a part of our constitution.
It is heartening to know that the draft 13th Five Year Plan has earmarked 12 percent of the plan’s capital budget for Education. It is reported that a major initiative would be to reduce the number of schools, though specific details of the types of schools to be closed are not mentioned. This is a delicate area. There are several regions in the country where primary schools have been shut. This has resulted in very young children living in hostels and thus deprived of the parental care required at such an age. Such practices are detrimental to the development of a child. Additionally, some parents have kept their children at home, due to the absence of a school in their vicinity, depriving the child of a fundamental right. Though it is said that all children between 3-5 years, would avail ECCD services, it is also important to consider the needs of children beyond those at the ECCD level.
Education has several purposes and one of the important ones is to support individuals to develop as persons, citizens, and professionals. While this would have been easier in the past, it is a completely different narrative today. Dynamic transformations in the economic, social, and technological spheres demand that education evolve consistently to fulfill its missions. What is relevant today becomes obsolete tomorrow and education has to pick up. Today, it has become a continuous process of learning and re-learning. Thus, infrastructure development should be rolled out considering these facets of Education. It is high time for policymakers to realize that huge and sturdy buildings are not required. These structures become ugly after a certain period. Instead, cost-effective temporal and scientifically designed structures should be used and promoted. There is a need to shift and realize that infrastructure development is not only about structures.
The Education Transformation plan also talks about teacher development programs in areas like leadership and professionalism of teachers. There should be more focus on need-based professionalism. Teaching and learning are like two sides of a coin. When education is dynamic, so should the teaching process be. Teachers will also need to learn and re-learn.
The initiation of the Bhutan Professional Standards for Teachers (BPST) is also part of the plan. While it may not be difficult to frame the fundamental professional standards, weaving one that encompasses the entire gamut of a good and effective teacher would be challenging, especially considering that education is subject to change.