Bhutan: Inducing change in the curriculum to create responsible citizens

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The curriculum advocated in the National Education framework does not advocate financial and economic wellbeing as the dominant focus of study. Collaboration rather than competition is encouraged among students and value is placed on emotional, social and spiritual skills. The curriculum differs from modern western education which creates factors of production rather than nature loving curious and happy individuals. Enakshi Sengupta writes an analysis of the concept of ‘holistic curriculum” in Bhutan

Written By Enakshi Sengupta

We often keep hearing the phrase that we are living in a turbulent world, a world full of hatred and crime against humanity and the future looks bleak. Our education system has been built resting on the pillars of achievement and success rather than seeking a path towards common welfare and human wellbeing.

The sustenance of our planet depends to an extent on the kind of education we provide to the future generations and are we creating a “happy human being able not only to care for him or herself, but also be aware of other’s needs, share, collaborate in finding solutions collectively” (Zangmo S. 2014). We need to think and reshape the curriculum that we offer to our current students. We need to think whether studying math’s, science and the official language will suffice or designing a curriculum for a holistic development of children is a part of the corrective action that we need to undertake.

A small pristine country called Bhutan tucked in the lap of nature in the valleys of Himalaya with its unique development paradigm of Gross National Happiness (GNH) is making a constant effort to strike a balance between the materialistic gains and spiritual wellbeing of its population based on Buddhist practice and principles. The country reviewed its purpose of formal education and has built a curriculum that aims to impart holistic education which will help a child not only to flourish but to become a happy human being with compassion who “will nurture and encourage its citizens to be mindful, reflective, creative, skillful, successful, confident, active and informed, capable of contributing effectively to the realization of GNH” (National Education Framework 2012, p. 25. Royal Education Council of Bhutan).

Happyness in BhutanThe curriculum advocated in the National Education framework does not advocate financial and economic wellbeing as the dominant focus of study. Collaboration rather than competition is encouraged among students and value is placed on emotional, social and spiritual skills. The curriculum differs from modern western education which creates factors of production rather than nature loving curious and happy individuals.

Community activity is one of the prime focuses of the curriculum prescribed to achieve GNH for the country. Interacting and supporting the community through active participation is encouraged among school going students. Emphasis is laid on withholding and preserving traditional culture. Students are encouraged to learn about the curEnakshi Senguptarent socio – economic issues of the country and learn necessary life skills to address such issues. Schools are choosing “reflective learning as a primary pedagogy” (Zangmo S. 2014). The concept of Green schools has been introduced in Bhutan who promotes inclusive education. Powdyel (2010) has defined the concept of a green school to be focused towards protecting nature and at the same time promoting intellectual, academic, spiritual, social cultural, aesthetic and moral greenery.

The Curriculum and pedagogy is both culture centered and is contextual. The biggest challenge that lies for the schools is in trying to inculcate a holistic curriculum to align the need of society with what is being presently taught in schools. Despite the much acclaimed benefits of learner-centered pedagogy, teaching still continues to be aligned to teacher-centered approaches. The teacher-centered teaching undermines the encouragement of skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and development of nurturing relationships in students.

Changes in curriculum and teaching method cannot be induced overnight and such transformation to holistic education has to be gradual. Both teachers and the community should plan and work towards their relevant goals over a period of time, with a proper feedback and evaluation programme in place so that the schools would be successful in creating better and responsible citizens.

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About the Author: Dr. Enakshi Sengupta is an academician and a researcher in higher education and corporate social responsibility. Her research interest includes student’s welfare, curriculum, integration and social responsibility.

(Photo: https://mybhutantour.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/img_4315.jpg)

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