EN­COUR­AG­ING A GEN­ER­A­TION OF FREE THINKERS

Business Bhutan - - Editorial -

Our education sys­tem has evolved since the days stu­dents looked up to teach­ers as dra­co­nian demigods whose every word was their com­mand. A teacher met­ing out puni­tive mea­sures for mi­nor mis­takes is also a thing of the past. On a pos­i­tive note, we can say that teach­ers th­ese days have the op­por­tu­nity to be flesh and blood, hu­mane role-mod­els if they choose to.

Over the past few years, some ma­jor re­forms have swept over the sys­tem: ones to be noted be­ing the cen­tral school sys­tem, which aims to re­duce walk­ing dis­tance for stu­dents in far-flung ru­ral pock­ets, bring teacher- stu­dent ra­tio to stan­dard pro­por­tions while also spread­ing eq­uity by in­te­grat­ing chil­dren from all back­grounds and classes of life onto a com­mon plat­form.

Other re­forms in­clude teacher de­vel­op­ment, English pro­fi­ciency de­vel­op­ment, and dis­sem­i­nat­ing ad­min­is­tra­tive and other du­ties to the right­ful au­thor­i­ties while teach­ers carry out the sole man­date of teaching so that they are not crushed by ad­di­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

An­other ma­jor re­form ini­ti­ated by the education min­istry re­cently is the trans­for­ma­tive ped­a­gogy train­ing of 10,000 teach­ers across the coun­try whereby the “talk-down” sys­tem of teaching would now turn into a con­ducive learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment for chil­dren with them dis­cussing and con­tribut­ing ideas in­stead of sim­ply lis­ten­ing and tak­ing down ev­ery­thing.

Go­ing by th­ese rev­e­la­tions, we should be happy that education in the coun­try is en­cour­ag­ing a gen­er­a­tion of youth who will not be spoon-fed or worse, forcefed, so that their voices are muf­fled.

In­stead, we are hope­fully direct­ing a gen­er­a­tion that could make a dif­fer­ence in the world, to be free thinkers. Thinkers who will come up with cre­ative so­lu­tions to prob­lems. Thinkers who will use both heart and head to make way out of a maze or puz­zle. And dare we dream, thinkers who will re­solve the next big chal­lenge aris­ing from cli­mate change, who can sort out a dis­pute be­tween two first world coun­tries ready to fire mis­siles at each other, or one who can pre­dict and an­a­lyze a coun­try’s way out of an eco­nomic predica­ment.

In Bhutan, we need a breed that can come up with off-the-beaten track so­lu­tions to the ris­ing menace of hu­man-wildlife con­flicts, empty house­holds (gung­tongs), dry ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels, de­plet­ing nat­u­ral re­sources, ur­ban hous­ing crunch, garbage dis­posal, non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, un­healthy life­styles, al­co­holism and so forth.

Are we ask­ing for too much? Would the the­ory of rel­a­tiv­ity, speed of light, grav­ity, the el­e­ments of a cell, and a laser beam be dis­cov­ered if we lacked free thinkers? Would the clas­sics have been penned? Would Sal­vador Dali and Van Gogh cre­ated their mas­ter­pieces?

A child’s education is cer­tainly one of the great­est in­vest­ments, es­pe­cially a good, even a won­der­ful education. It makes all the dif­fer­ence be­tween a lost life and one of tal­ent, hard work and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Education Min­is­ter Norbu Wangchuk, at a re­cent talk at the Jour­nal­ists As­so­ci­a­tion of Bhutan, said that to en­cour­age Bhutanese chil­dren to be free thinkers, we should give free bounds to the three Cs: cre­ativ­ity, col­lab­o­ra­tion, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

While the sce­nario looks en­cour­ag­ing, we can­not turn a blind eye to the fact that some of our youth are en­dur­ing hard­ships and ex­er­tion to avail the most ba­sic education and ameni­ties.

Think of re­mote schools where chil­dren have to walk for hours or cross swelling rivers to get to school and back, over-crowded hos­tels lack­ing proper drink­ing water and san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties, and out­break of dis­eases due to lack of nu­tri­tious food or lim­ited in­su­la­tion against harsh weather con­di­tions.

There are also chil­dren not so priv­i­leged: who have to work hard to bal­ance house chores and school as­sign­ments, who can­not af­ford a proper pair of shoes or sneak­ers for the next sports meet, who sleep on jute mat­tresses cov­ered by torn blan­kets.

Life was never easy. Get­ting a proper education is not easy. But our ed­u­ca­tion­ists must re­al­ize that pos­ter­ity will thank them if we set up an education sys­tem that will help fu­ture cit­i­zens re­al­ize their in­nate po­ten­tial as unique in­di­vid­u­als.

At the end, our youth must grab every op­por­tu­nity that comes their way where they can em­ploy them­selves to gain sound knowl­edge, un­leash free think­ing skills, and cul­ti­vate val­ues and prin­ci­ples that build char­ac­ter.

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