Govt, opposition at loggerheads over ‘B.Ed course’

The opposition party maintained that the recent announcement of the government on the discontinuation of ‘B.Ed teacher course’ will be a big policy blunder and might have huge long term negative implications on the quality of education in the country.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), in a press release issued yesterday, states that the government’s announcement on the issue is another ill-conceived and short-sighted policy.

“The overall quality of education will seriously suffer in the long run as this will adversely affect the quality of basic education to start with. This will also mean closing the window of alternative opportunities for class 12 graduates to choose and pursue career as professional teachers,” states the press release.

DPT also maintains that B.Ed is a tried and tested program.

“B.Ed program has served its purpose exceedingly well, and today, B.Ed teachers form the backbone of our education system in general and teaching fraternity in particular. As such, B.Ed program instead needs to be further strengthened. Life-long learning is an indispensable part of professional and career development. Therefore, postgraduate courses, both short and long term, including masters’ program should be accorded the highest priority for the professional and career advancement of teachers as well as for enhancement of the quality of education,” the press release stated.

Talking to Business Bhutan, education minister Norbu Wangcuk, however, said that raising the quality of teachers will greatly raise the quality of education and that the government is committed to ensure that the country has quality education that prepares Bhutanese children for the 21st century.

Following the Prime Minister’s proposal to raise the qualification of our teachers to masters’ degree, the education ministry studied the potential influence of raising qualification to the quality of education. The ministry is convinced of the benefits of such an initiative to the competence and commitment of our teachers. The initiative will ultimately impact the quality of education in the country positively, according to Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk.

He added that the tertiary education board comprising members from the education ministry, Royal University of Bhutan and the teacher training colleges endorsed the proposal submitted by the Ministry during its recent board meeting.

The education ministry estimates that annually 400 new teachers would be required over the years. With about 3,000 graduates entering the job market annually, the education ministry plans to induct 400 best graduates and offer them masters’ degree in education.

“Since the graduates would already have the content knowledge of the subjects of their choices, the two year masters’ program would focus on science of learning and pedagogical skills,” the minister explained. The ministry has also plans to offer masters’ degree to the in-service teachers. About 350 in-service teachers would be sent for their masters’ program annually in the 12th Plan.

“This initiative will greatly enhance morale of our teachers and the respect from the society. Besides the move will address the teacher shortage challenge that the education system is facing presently. Every teacher, legitimately, aspires to raise her qualification over the years,” Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said.

He added, “The B.Ed teachers would want to raise their qualifications to masters’ degree. Most do go to pursue their masters’ degree which creates teacher shortages in our schools. Having a masters’ degree as an entry qualification would not only ensure that the teachers are well prepared for the education system but would also help address teacher shortages in the long run.”

According to the education minister, this policy of raising qualification of the teachers to a masters’ degree would be a game changer in the education system.

“Bhutan’s education system has improved over the years because our education leaders took the courage to make fundamental shifts such as this. Initially, our teachers were class VIII passed only. Subsequently, the qualification was raised to class 10 with Primary Teacher Certificate qualification. Over the years, the qualification was raised to a B.Ed degree. Today, we have come of age where we are in the position to take this shift to a masters’ degree. It would take a decade or two to have all the teachers with a masters’ degree. But we should have the courage to think long term and make the move now. Bhutan, with its small population is at its best situation to take this policy decision,” Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said.

In terms of the class 12 students, the ministry believes most of the students should aspire to complete their graduation. Most should also move into the technical and vocational stream of education.

“Plans and programs are being readied to deepen and expand the TVET education programs. Through a massive ADB grant, the Technical Vocational and Educational Training (TVET) education will be a major thrust in the 12th Plan. The government is confident that with expansion of central schools and the TVET programs, our class 12 students can opt either to further their qualification or take the TVET program,” the minister said.

He added, “Teacher is at the heart of the education system. Teachers are the main influence for the quality of education. Any education reform must address the need and concerns of our teachers. Good teachers are those who are happy and talented. The government through various teacher development initiatives has focused on raising qualification and skills of our teachers.”

Chencho Dema from Thimphu