Last year, there was much controversy over the Ada Rachu decision of the Home Ministry, which for a while attempted to enforce a dress code in the colour and type of Rachu that can be worn.
The decision, it seems, came as a recommendation from the ranks of cultural officers in the Dzongkhags who could not bear to see their delicate eyes being hurt by the colourful Rachus being worn by women. It was heartily endorsed by the Home Minister.
Given the lack of public consultation the decision badly backfired and was soon withdrawn by the same minister, who decided to take the flak for it to protect his bright cultural officers.
Even earlier then that the former government’s Pedestrian Day move also met with much public disdain but nevertheless it was implemented for a long while causing much inconvenience and as a result exacted a heavy political price in the process.
Going by some of the proceedings in the National Education Conference it seems the above lessons have not been learnt well.
The most controversial decision from the conference was to cut short the winter break by two weeks and instead extend the summer break.
Even though exceptions were made for some highland communities most parts of Bhutan still have to endure a cold and brutal winter. This is made worse by mainly cold cement and brick classrooms with no heating facilities.
The reason why cold countries give winter holidays and hot countries give long summer holidays is to not only give children a break but also spare them from extreme weather.
The Education Ministry mandarins and policy makers who came up with or endorsed this bright idea should try spending even a few hours in a cold classroom in winter and see what drastic effects it has on the human body.
Another quickie was making it compulsory to pass in Dzongkha or basically fail the entire academic year with an even brighter idea proposing to increase the pass marks from 35 to 40.
Here again, the Education Ministry should have done some detailed studies and consultation on the academic impact of such a decision. The ministry could have also better prepared the students, teachers, schools and the Dzongkha study materials before potentially threatening the academic futures of many students.
Dzongkha is the national language and it should be promoted but the ground reality is that students are weak in Dzongkha not by choice but by a combination of systemic factors in the education system. They could have been fixed first after which such a rule could have been brought in.
Either way, 2018 is nearing the government’s door step and few more of these ad hoc decisions could make it a more unpredictable race.
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”