Students will resume their higher studies in classrooms with mandatory precautions in place starting from 1 July as the government has given orders to reopen schools, colleges and institutes. However, those students who have been studying in India and abroad may not have all these amenities until the COVID-19 pandemic settles down.
Reportedly the students who are studying in India and abroad are currently adjusting with online classes and assignments. But the question remains as to how the students would cope-up if the situation continues for a long time. They are unsure about how they are to continue with their studies even though they have been promoted directly to the next semester.
A student said, “If it just going to be online classes for the rest of the year, I think fees should be compromised or something of that nature should be arranged by the respective colleges.”
At the Meet-the-Press session held yesterday, the Education Minister, Jai Bir Rai, said, “In this case, the works need to be sorted out through multi-sectoral involvement, and currently, there haven’t been much concrete plans but it is an important aspect, and it will have to be addressed in the future.”
Lyonpo added that the respective colleges are carrying out online assessments and examinations. But there are other plans in discussions along with Royal Thimphu College (RTC) for credit transfer avenues to be arranged in accordance with other the colleges.
Lyonpo added that a few MBBS final year students have been tracked and will be doing the examinations in Bhutan and their marks will be submitted to their respective colleges abroad.
Chief Program Officer, Scholarship and Student Support Division (SSSD), Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE) under the Ministry of Education (MoE), Baburam Sherpa, said, “As per the report received from the universities and colleges abroad where scholarship students are studying, soon after the closure, institutes have moved to online teaching through various e-Learning platforms and alternative assessment strategies so students do not have to repeat the semester.”
He added, “As per what the institutes have reported, students will be graduating as scheduled. For the students in the intermediate semester, it has been informed that even if the current situation does not improve, the institutes are planning to move ahead with online teaching and resume on campus teaching when it is safe to do as directed by their government. As for the new students, their admissions have been already processed to keep it ready in case the situation improves and students are required to go.”
Recently, RTC put forward an advertisement for the intake of such types of students. The Dean, Academic Affairs, RTC, Shiv Raj Bhattarai (PhD) said, “For the students wishing to permanently transfer their studies to RTC, there should be a match with the existing programs we offer. For students planning on temporary studies for a semester or more, they will have a wide range of module options from across our programs to choose from. It is likely that they could fulfill elective requirements from their home institutions, or even pursue wider subjects for their own edification, like Dzongkha or ICT.”
He also said that while RTC has had a good experience with credit transfers, but it is mindful of the broad range of programs in other institutions across the country that might fit students’ interests as well.
The Dean said, “As there is a natural attrition in the upper years of the programs. We would have around 5-15 percent of seats in those courses available for transfer or temporary study students.”
He stated that the Bhutan Qualifications Framework supports lateral mobility of students through Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) that has been assessed and achieved through a formal program of study elsewhere in a similar higher education program.
He added, “If students’ learning outcomes from their foreign university courses can be evaluated from available documentation and transcripts, they can be matched to learning outcomes expected from modules in our programs and transferred. For students transferring permanently into our programs, currently there needs to be a high degree of match and students have to meet all requirements of the local programs in Bhutan, as these mostly do not have the flexibility built in, for example with electives.”
However, RTC is ready to help map out different options for the students and see if they can be admitted into upper semesters.
“If students wish to retain their foreign enrolment and complete temporary studies for a semester or more at RTC, this is no different than what we have already done for over 400 international students that recognized credits here at RTC over the past decade.” the Dean added.
RTC has received about a dozen preliminary queries, and some have moved into the next phase of examining documents to assess prior learning and make credit transfer plans.
“We do not see the possibility of credit transfer for most of the courses for which students have been sent on scholarships abroad as these programs are not available in Bhutan,” Baburam Sherpa said, and further added, “Also for credit transfer, there must be prior institutional arrangement in place for credit transfer from one university to another, without which it may not be feasible.”
He said that for those students who study abroad on self-funding, the programs are offered by the colleges and universities and it will depend on them whether to allow or enroll for credit transfer depending on the kind of arrangement they have in place, if there is one.
Deputy Registrar of ICFAI University in Sikkim, Rohit Rathi, said that the college has more than 180 Bhutanese students. A few of the students from the college said that currently they are doing assignments and awaiting further directions as to how the rest of the year would pan out for them.
Rohit Rathi said ever since the lockdown happened and the students from other countries went back to their home countries, they have been doing the online classes and interacting with the students through Zoom application, Google classrooms, WhatsApp and Facebook.
He said the college started with examinations yesterday through online processes and this was primarily done for the students who are from Bhutan as per the approval of the Vice Chancellor.
Rohit said they are anticipating is that the lockdown would normalize by the end of October or November but it would have to be seen if Bhutanese students are allowed or not by the government and what arrangements have to be made.