By Tashi Deki | 20 July 2012

Bhutan celebrated 100 glorious years of education in the ‘Sherig Century,’ but intricacies up-close-and-personal will perhaps reveal that ‘hundred’, bygone in years and not really in strict-terms of quality development.

A report study conducted by iDiscoveri and the Royal Education Council reveals contents that leave the system in want for milestone-makeovers.

To test the quality of learning and outcomes of students, a diagnostic standardized test of understanding (ASSET) conducted a test designed by the Indian assessment firm Educational Initiatives in 18 schools in Mathematics, English and Science.

Performances of students – ‘clustered and below-average’

Outcome of the test showed majority of the students were unable to demonstrate basic competencies in Mathematics, Language and Science.

Basically a class V student should have sufficient knowledge of procedures like addition and multiplication and by class IX, should know how to divide algebraic expressions and be familiar with rationalization.

However, “only 10% of the students were able to get the question on procedures while 7% were able to answer the question on algebraic expressions correctly,” the report stated.

Students across Classes V, VII and IX found the passage-related questions (to test a student’s ability to understand the main idea, context of the passage to test skills and recall direct facts) most difficult.

The students of classes VII and IX found it difficult to tackle questions which tested a student’s recollection or recognition of science facts, relationships, processes and concepts.

The Bhutan Learning Quality Survey shows “gaps in basic skills between 50 to 60% students of Class II who had difficulty to perform simple multiplication and division while a pool of students remained below Class II-level competencies even in Class IV”.

Private school students performed better than students in Community primary schools, with vast differences.

The average number of correct responses of students who appeared in the ASSET test was between 27 and 30% in all Classes and subjects, and the scores were about 50% lower than performances of Indian private schools.

Classroom intricacies detailed by the 2009 report

In order to observe classroom activities, the study conducted in 46 classes across 24 schools observed 100% teacher-centric learning in the classrooms where teachers verbally explained about 95% of contents, ‘writing’ on the board.

This clearly showed students hardly get to participate in the classroom. On average students asked only 3 questions in a lesson whereas in private schools it was 6.

Of the teachers interviewed in the process of study, only 33% teachers believed students are capable of learning and had low expectations from students. About 20% teachers believed first generation learners are not capable of learning.

It highlighted that lessons are started as an entry point but not summarized at the end and in some cases, it started with an entry point but in only few cases there was a proper summary.

“Both classroom observations and lessons reveal the problems with entry and closure of lessons,” the report stated.

What kind of teaching professionals do we have in Bhutan?

This bit of insight is also highlighted in the report:

Teaching as a career is evenly split between “compulsion and choice”.

About 45% opted teaching out of compulsion. Of total 5372 teachers in Bhutan, 94% are trained and 6% untrained.

The teacher training program is unable to cope with the demand for qualified teachers which impacts teacher-availability in schools leading to a mismatch between teacher capability and the subjects taught.

The gaps were also seen in the frequency, availability and quality of these programs.

While the new curriculum materials are well-designed, majority of instructions content actually used in most schools are not able to promote inquiry and application.

Except English and Mathematics, textbooks used in other subjects are content-heavy. It neither promoted understanding, nor did it create learner-interest.

As revealed by teachers in the process of interview for the study, unavailability of resources is a serious constraint.

Unavailability of Teaching-Learning Materials (TLM) was a major issue which cropped up nearly in every school. In some schools, teachers photocopied materials using their own resources.

Non-availability of teaching resources to support curriculum transaction severely limited the delivery capacity of teachers and most schools complained about severe lack of textbooks, teacher guides, and materials necessary to transact lessons.

Some forms of assessment, though stated in the policy are not observed in practice.

Essential infrastructure, design and resources lacking in most classrooms

On average, 22 feet by 23 feet dimension classrooms were crowded and not equipped with adequate and suitable furnitures.

“At various places there were leaking roofs and cracked walls and 10% of classrooms, lighting was insufficient,” stated the report.

A reading corner was found only in 20% of the primary schools.

The report recommends age-appropriate furniture for proper learning as children sit on stools and bend to reach the tables.

Power of the school Principals

Only 22.7% have power to a-large-extent to allocate financial resources.

Only 18% of principals reported discussing on academic matters with teachers.

Many reported dysfunctional levels of control from the government system on their decision-making.

Weak home and school, and school and parents connections, was observed and they have unmet expectations from each other stating lack of clear communication from the school about students’ progress and lack of involvement of parents with children’s learning is cause of concern.

The study not only observed drawbacks in the teaching-learning process in the classrooms but also reveals that high school graduates and college graduates lack basic analytical and communication skills required to succeed in entry level professions. This was revealed by employers in the process of the study.

“High school graduates were found not up-to mark to perform tasks to total a bill or draft an application letter for employment,” stated the report.

Employers stated lack of analytical skills, out-of-box solutions for practical problems, as well as technical and vocational skills which made employment difficult.


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