KARMA CHIMI | Thimphu
The National Education Assessment (NEA) 2021-Grade III report, launched by the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) on 4 March, found that there was a positive evaluation made by the students on the environment of their schools and that they were happy and safe in their schools.
NEA is a triennial sample-based large-scale assessment of students at various stages (grade III, VI, and IX) in English Reading Literacy and English Writing Literacy; Dzongkha Reading Literacy and Dzongkha Writing Literacy; Mathematical Literacy; and Scientific Literacy to gauge their knowledge, skills, and attitude across these foundational subjects.
The NEA cognitive instruments were administered to 4,685 grade III students including 24 students with special needs from 184 schools across 20 Dzongkhags and four Thromdes from November 25 to December 15, last year.
The students agreed that their teachers took care of sick students and reported that most of the essential facilities were available on their school campuses.
Healthy family interactions were reported by most of the students. In general, students had meals with their parents or family members several times a week and had conversations about their education and schools with their family members.
The students participated in family activities including visiting temples and attending Tshechus and received support from their families in various ways, such as help with homework and project work.
The NEA 2021 results also showed that students have positive attitudes toward learning, agreeing with the importance of learning and aspiring to get a job and do well in their lives and gain knowledge.
The report found most of the students maintained good habits of self-study, reading, and playing after school.
Watching TV and using a mobile phone was among the most popular activities students did outside their schools.
On the contrary, using an iPad or tablet PC and playing computer games were not popular among students probably due to the unavailability of devices.
Based on the self-ratings of students on the nine student attributes, students nurtured the nine attributes well, says the assessment.
It was confirmed by the ratings done by their teachers on the same attributes. Average ratings from both teachers and students were between 4.0 and 4.8 on a five-point scale (1 – least important to 5 – most important).
Going to school (4.8), listening to teachers (4.7), staying clean (4.6), and taking care of the school property (4.6) were among the highest-rated items by students.
Most of the students experienced missing classes due to poor health during the last year. Ninety-seven percent of students reported that they were sick and 95 percent of students said that they missed school. These results may be consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, states the report.
On the positive side, a significant number of students reported that they received help from their schools when they were sick.
The results suggest that it is important to continue providing support for students who fall sick in schools and improving sanitation and personal hygiene programmes in schools according to the assessment.
Although student ratings were low on bullying, it is close to ‘sometimes,’ indicating that some students have experienced bullying.
It was recommended that MoESD establish a clear anti-bullying policy so that all students and teachers understand that bullying is not acceptable behaviour and there is help available for affected students in schools.
The report suggested the government make sure all schools review their School Discipline Policy Guidelines and enforce them in their schools.
It was found that the practice of corporal punishment in schools was not common, however, students reported that they experienced beating by vice principals, teachers, and principals sometimes.
Considering the negative ratings by students, there may be a need to further investigate corporal punishment cases in schools.
The students responded that they were afraid of the principal (2.2), vice principal (2.7), or teachers (2.2) on a four-point scale (1-never, 2-sometimes, 3-many times, 4-always).
It is also reported that they experienced beating by the principal (1.8), vice principal (2.7), or teachers (2.0) in their schools on the same four-point scale.
The findings from NEA 2021 indicated that there may be a need to further investigate corporal punishment cases in schools.
Thus, it was recommended to investigate the situation with a future study and make policy decisions based on what the study reveals. Some of the policy measures may include strengthening counselling programmes in schools and sending out constant reminders to teachers of the code of conduct.
Bhutan Council for School Examination (BCSEA) was an implementing agency that executed the NEA project (2019-2022) in collaboration with the MoESD and Royal University of Bhutan with technical support from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).
The NEA Project (2019-2022) was funded by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) under Education Sector Programme Implementation Grant (ESPIG) with support from the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Save the Children International-Bhutan (SCI).