Basics taught in Dzongkha, a possible hurdle for learning Science in English

Environmental studies (EVS) which is taught in Dzongkha from classes PP to III is taught in English from class IV onwards as social studies and science.

This sudden U-turn, some observers feel, will be to the detriment of the students’ performance. But according to the Principal Curriculum Officer for environmental studies, with the Department of Curriculum and Research Division (DCRD), Wangda Dorji, children learn the basic terms in Dzongkha more easily.

“Moreover, there is no need for any translations to be done for the local terms, for instance, lhakhangs”, he said.

Similarly, the Deputy Chief Liaison Officer at the Ministry of Education (MoE), Kaka Tshering, reiterated that Dzongkha being the state language, the children understand it without much hassle.

“It is a gradual introduction for the new young learners,” he said.  Wangda Dorji added that the basics of science, geography, value education, health, physical education and social studies are present in EVS.

He also said that the ideas inculcated in EVS and social studies are the same so the children would understand it even if there is change in mode of language was used for teaching the subjects.

However, a few teachers feel that EVS should be taught in English starting from the lower classes. “Students can understand and express well in Dzongkha, scoring high marks in their lower classes but they fail to do the same in their social studies in English,”said a teacher from Yudrupcholing Pry School in Trongsa.

The medium of communication is the main problem students face so teachers feel the need for EVS in English rather than in Dzongkha. But Kinzang Dorji, a teacher at the same school feels that the present curriculum is fine.

“Teaching classes PP to III students in English will be a tough job for both students and teachers, because most of our children are not familiar with the English language”, he said.

A teacher from Yonphula Primary School, Trashigang, said that the EVS curriculum taught in Dzongkha will result in failure like the Bhutan History which was once taught in the state language.

Meanwhile, Sangay Tenzin, a social studies teacher at the Trongsa Primary School has made an interesting observation. Sangay Tenzin said that students in remote schools are good at Dzongkha while students in towns are better at English, “therefore, it is better to carry on with the current curriculum “.

Some officials from DCRD said that there are no chances of any confusion among the children because EVS is a study of culture and the Bhutanese society where the same terms have to be used frequently.

“We cannot directly make children learn science practicals from a very young age, so the basics of all the subjects are included in EVS”, said Wangda Dorji.V

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  1. Teachers at the elementary level wants EVS to be taught in English because they are not competent in Dzongkha. I have seen Teachers of Classes PP to III saying that teaching EVS in Dzongkha is boring because they don’t have the basics of dzongkha spellings and grammar. Some body even dared to say, ” I don’t know Dzongkha”. How can this negative attitude of teachers be accounted as a factor for curriculum change. As one teacher rightly suggested, children should be made to learn concepts in the language they understand with english as the medium of teaching in other subjects. Present curriculum is fine I suppose because curriculum should not be based on teacher’s convenience. It should be based on child ease and need-based. Children will not be able to learn science and social study concepts in a language that is totally new to them. So start with the language they understand.

  2. Dechen D has a good point: For things to be unserstood, learning happens by understanding, it is better to start from what ‘they’ understand.
    It has been an open challenge and i was ever thinking that education system needs to be changed fundamentally, from nutrition and diets to language in which pupils are taught, i understand few dilects have disappeared in last 50 years within Bhutan and many will disappear in next 50 years, if the system continues as today.
    Why can’t a group of people sit to discuss and come up with Kheng, Sarchop and Kuerteop srcipts? Then teach every subject in the pupil’s language till class six, with one english and one dzongkha class per day.
    From seven, Dzongkha can be taught one period per day as usual with other subjects being taught in english.
    What goes in mouth makes the brain, it’s brain that actually learns, i have eaten pathetic diets in my schools and same is in college. Nutritionally deprived children learn less and with less efficiency and for education to be effacacious the food eaten by children should be nutritious, may be milk, honey and fruits each breakfast.
    The language will make a sense, when it is used sensitively, most of our thoughts are in mother tongue, by teaching them allien languages we are empeding our children’s mental capacities, because thoughts cannot be exactly translated with required fastness and effectiveness.
    Join my dreams to save our languages, dzongkha will be more stable language if there are other languages which compete to vanish, but when no other languages remain to compete finally, it will give ways to either indian or chinese language.
    Dont think of centuries, think of melliniums. Make a promise to save your language from extinction, it’s your responsibility, all my prayers are for good.

  3. How lamentable ! Our school teachers are finding difficult teaching in Dzongkha, Dzongkha is difinately difficult if u do not know, Any language is difficult if one does not know, If teachers do not know dzongkha I think u better change your profession so that you will be better utilised in other areas than in teaching, Teaching is a noble profession but it is noble only if u know it is noble. I feel it is shameful on the part of teachers in saying that they find it difficult in Dzongkha while teaching subject like EVS. Our ancesstors managed to keep our soceity, environment and cultural tradition in tact without knowing english. One is not a true Bhutanese if one does not know how to read and write Dzongkha.

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