First of all there are some fundamentals for Dzongkha which cannot be compromised with. It is the national language and as such must not only be promoted, but it must also be strengthened and celebrated.
Dzongkha is also a part of Bhutan’s own national cultural identity and it is the one indigenous language that helps unite a nation of many regional and sub-regional dialects.
Moreover, for as long as Bhutan has existed as an independent and unified political entity, Dzongkha has also played a vital role in it and in doing so it is also linked to Bhutan’s identification as a sovereign nation. It also forms a key part of the national identity.
So while we can all agree on the need to promote and strengthen the use and quality of Dzongkha, especially among our youth, the difference is in the path to take.
A wrong approach can actually make matters worse and the best practical illustration is the quality of Dzongkha in the print media.
Since English newspapers are mandated to carry Dzongkha content with the aim of strengthening Dzongkha, the opposite has happened with most of the publications having poor quality Dzongkha pages.
Another example given by the Education minister is when a few years ago History was taught in Dzongkha and the result was that students neither picked up good Dzongkha nor did they learn History. The Education ministry, which is one of the biggest champions of Dzongkha had to revert teaching History back into English.
In that sense the National Council, Special Committee on Education’s recommendation to teach History in Dzongkha and pilot teaching Civics and Social Studies in Dzongkha has met with a lot of resistance.
This recommendation also flies against data from Bhutan’s board exams for the last three years which show that students are doing equally well in both Dzongkha and English. At the same time the teaching of other subjects in English has done nothing to improve its quality.
If accepted the Committee’s recommendation would not only do nothing for Dzongkha but it would also hamper the other subjects like it happened a few years ago.
What would be a far more practical approach is to focus on language subjects like Dzongkha and English as language subjects and then build on that.
The Education ministry’s efforts to train Dzongkha teachers in the latest teaching advances and also make learning materials and resources more fun is a step in the right direction. This can also be supplemented with youth targeted Dzongkha comics and TV cartoons.
In that sense Bhutan’s Film and music industry for all its modernity has played a very big role in promoting and further popularizing Dzongkha.
“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”