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Change may be expensive, but change we must

Education in Bhutan has taken on varied changes over the years. Even as we are grappling with rising youth unemployment which we are told is the result of skills mismatch, we are talking about 21st century education. We are fording into the future with lofty dreams and certain confidence.

But what really is 21st century education in the Bhutanese context? This is a complex question because there is no straight answer to it. If we are aiming at an education system that is completely different from what we now have, not a lot is going to change.

What we know, though, is that Bhutan’s education system has to wake up to new challenges of the modern times. When modern education began in Bhutan, needs of the country was different. The challenges of this day demand different kind of education and skills. How are we coping?

When schools are going textbook-less, we need to think about pros and cons. Do we have well-stocked libraries in our schools? If we haven’t, how are we going to make our libraries more resourceful? In this age of technological marvels, do we have enough computers in schools for research? More importantly, do we have internet connectivity that is useful?

ICTisation of curriculum could fall flat on the cold ground or else.

Today, the average computer per student ratio in schools is one computer per 22 students. The computer ratio target of 1:10 for secondary schools, which means one computer for 10 students and 1:30 for primary schools, is too less. We are told that more than 92 percent of private schools and 46 percent of public schools are connected with internet today, about 95 percent of the public higher secondary schools have access to internet while only 44 percent of the public primary schools have access to internet.

The education ministry is in discussion with the department of information technology and telecom to increase the megabits per second to at least 3Mbps in all primary schools and a maximum of 15Mbps in secondary schools. This is a good beginning. We can and should do more.

If we are to make our children employable, our education system and curriculum should be relevant to the changing times. If History has gone textbook-less, other subjects will follow in the future. In this light, we also need to look at how we are training our teachers. The 21st century education demands a complete overhauling of the system.

This change will be expensive, but change we must. But laying a strong foundation is more important. Are we doing it right?

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