From the Old School to the New School

Dr. Jose Mathews

The country is constructively debating the ways and means of transforming the education system following the Royal Kasho shared with the public. It is well-known that the foundation of all forms of development is education and no development is possible without education because by nature man is ignorant and education illumines and sharpens the mind that enables him to understand the material and the spiritual world thereby, he is able to control and determine the outcomes.

Transforming the education system involves the government, the students, the teachers, generally labelled the participating units of action. But there is more to transformation than this which is called the medium of transformation. This medium of transformation is the contextualized programmes/curriculum that is evolved in relation to the country-specific features and the processes that are unique and pertinent in relation to the economic, political, socio-cultural, technological and other segments of the society. No transformation is going to be really transforming unless the curriculum designed and implemented is of some help to the students in the matters of intellectual development and career planning.

Designing of the courses/ curriculum is based on the realities that are confronted with. After allowing for the possibilities and the probabilities in the future, the courses designed must be in congruence with the employment opportunities that are available as of now which otherwise means that the courses itself must create jobs for the students in the absence of enough jobs available for them.  Of course, no government can provide full employment opportunities to all its citizens and even when it is possible there may not be a perfect match between what is offered and what is desired or sought after.  This scenario of imperfect employability creates the space for those who want to be self-employed or those who want to be innovative, creative and entrepreneurial. Not everyone who occupies this space will turn out to be true entrepreneurs.  Every society has these groups of individuals who are rather unproductive and who are not achievement-oriented.

Given that the government, the teachers and the students are in the constructive zone of change, the next important ingredient of transformation is the suitability and the relevance of the programmes designed to educate the students (as well as the teachers). This being the most critical component of transformation, we are forced to think of changing the structure of the schooling at lower, middle and higher levels along with changing the pattern for those who have completed schools and opting for higher education. No radical change is required at the school levels provided we are ready to re-orient the “schooling” in such a way that the students are finally turned out to be independent learners. The present system of passive instruction and learning (if this is so) needs to be changed to one of cultivating analytical, critical and creative thinking. The old system of rote learning is the practice modern educational psychologists no longer suggest and the same is to be replaced with constructive and creative forms of learning and it is the practice to be followed in teaching, learning and the examination systems. These innovative forms of teaching and learning are to be followed in higher education systems too but the way it is practiced differs considering the changes in the settings, the maturity of the students and the depth of the subject matter.

Contextualizing the programmes to the country involves so many complex issues like forecasting the future requirements, assessing the resource base, the willingness to explore unknown territories, the amount of risk that the individuals are ready to take, the demographic characteristics, and the willingness to welcome and experiment with new ideas.

Drawing up the road map in the transformative process must pay attention to the resources that the country is endowed with and the heterogeneity of resources provide the planners with the widest horizon possible. In the broad definition of the resources, whatever that have the productivity nature are resources and there lies an opportunity for the one who is able to perceive it and this perception is to be an outcome of the mind that is educated and experienced.  There are resources that have the potential in varied ways and it ranges from agriculture to zoology, each letter of the English alphabet connoting one or more resources or from one end of the country to the other end. These are the resources that enable the educated to turn it into goods and services of value. The point is that the programmes that are designed must be in alignment with the resources, the opportunities, the government support and the willingness of the participants. There lies the key to knowledge explosion and full employment.

To sum up when it comes to growth and development there cannot be any compromise on the nature and the quality of education. With regard to it successfully experimented models or practices can provide us with good insights and leads. Serendipitous discovery or breakthrough is not that what we want, it will happen in the thick of the time. Instead, thoughtful and sustained planning is to be the source of landmark change.  

(The columnist is a senior lecturer with Gaeddu College of Business Studies under the Royal University of Bhutan)