“We can dream of a nation of environmental conservation, GNH, a strong economy, a vibrant democracy and yet none are possible or sustainable if we have not already toiled and sweated in the building of a strong education system,” said His Majesty in 2009 during the third convocation of the Royal University of Bhutan at Paro.
The Royal Education Council (REC) was established in August 2007 with a mission to be an autonomous research organization, an intellectual community, an innovator, and a leader for achievement of educational excellence, the goals of Gross National Happiness and a vibrant national democracy.
The erstwhile REC and the Department of Curriculum Research and Development were merged into the existing Royal Education Council in 2014 led by the Prime Minister.
“REC carried out very well the mandate of educational research, innovation and teacher professional development training,” said the REC director, Kinga Dakpa. Many research studies such as Annual Status of Student learning (ASSL), Teacher Needs Assessment (TNA), XSEED pilot schools, and GNH SEED Schools programmes were done since 2007 to 2014 including 32 other programs which comes under curriculum related publications, establishment of Centenary Institute of Education in Yonphula and various related research reports.
“The very command to establish the institution and provision of time-to-time guidance and inspiration through the royal aspirations are the invaluable treasures,” said the director. “What more do we need?”
Professional Development Programmes were also carried out which includes the educational Assessment, As, For and Of, a five day workshop for teachers, Instructional Leadership for Principals and Vice Principals and integration of Step by Step Approach to ECCD in PP classes.
“As the education apex for the country, its main mandates are to review and revise the school curricula in making it relevant to Bhutanese learners and society; provide professional support to teachers, and conduct educational researche to inform the curriculum and educational initiatives,” he said.
He added that in making the education meaningful and relevant to learners and society REC has embarked on and institutionalized reformation of school curricula in English, Mathematics and Dzongkha for classes preprimary to twelve, science subjects from classes six to twelve, and IT subjects from classes preprimary till ten, Revision of subjects such as Dzongkha EVS for classes PP to three, social studies for classes four to six, and HPE curriculum for classes PP to six.
New curriculum such as Agriculture for Food Security, Vocational Studies, Media Studies, and Environmental Science for secondary level were introduced to address emerging national and global needs and issues.
“Induction or orientation workshops were provided for relevant teachers prior to the implementation of revised or new curriculum. The national reading program was launched by His Majesty in 2014, which stimulated children to read books,” the director said.
Various other programmes like conducting the National School Curriculum Conference was carried out at three levels.
The initiative, the first of its kind in Bhutanese education, was a process of comprehensive review of the school curricula involving all teachers, education officials at the Dzongkhag and Thromde level and the national level. “This conference has provided about twenty major recommendations to improve the curriculum,” he said.
Some of the priority long term plans includes curriculum reformation of Geography and History for classes six to twelve, review and revision of moral education as value education and Buddhist studies curriculum for classes PP to twelve, consolidating the curriculum, such as English, Dzongkha, Mathematics and science and strengthening the transformative pedagogy in schools to improve the quality of education.
“The long term plans also includes strengthening the educational research culture at the REC to underpin the curricular review and development, and implementing the resolutions of the Curriculum Conference,” he said.
The Council has formulated a reform agenda for school education reforms to provide a comprehensive set of linking policies that will ensure systemic reforms on the basis of His Majesties vision for the country and policies of the elected government to realize the royal vision.