When the new academic session for schools around the country commenced this year, the students of Classes IX and X were greeted with one new optional subject on Agriculture and Food Security. Similarly, in a year or two, the students of the same grades will be greeted with yet another optional subject, Environmental Science.
This is because Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), a non-governmental organization is currently in the process of developing, together with Education Ministry’s (MoE) Department of Curriculum Research & Development (DCRD), a curriculum on Environmental Science.
Environmental preservation and conservation is accorded high priority. Such effort is evident from the numerous prestigious environmental awards Bhutan has received from international organizations.
However, integrating the environmental studies in the formal education system to enable students, the future leader of the country, to appreciate and prepare them for the future challenge of environmental conservation has taken a long time to materialize.
Now, if what RSPN has started goes as per plan, efforts for environmental conservation will be further boosted and the students, most of whom, will land up after their studies as the decision makers in the government organizations will contribute realistically in environmental conservation.
The curriculum, though in an infant stage as stated in the RSPN report, would consist of four strands which will try to include different aspects of environmental science. For instance, in strand one, students who opt to take up the subject will study about Physical World, Biological World, Environment & Society, and Working Scientifically.
Students attending in class IX and X would be in their prime age to demonstrate significant developments in terms of logical and abstract thinking. However, for the older-aged students in higher classes, an education is mainly for understanding and consequently masters the disciplines and apprenticeship.
Through this subject, it is expected that students will develop basic knowledge and understanding of the concepts of Physical World, Biological World, Environment and Society, and the fundamental skills needed for the use of these in new and changing situations.
The report also mentions that the learners would discover a wider range of scientific ideas that support the environmental science, and consider them in greater depth and in laying the foundations. According to the report, the students would explore how developmental activities are related to the degradation of environment and consider the power and limitations of science and technology in addressing social, industrial, ethical and environmental issues; and how different groups in the community and beyond may have different views about the role of environment.
The report also stated that the subject also involves students in carrying out investigations, working either on their own or with others. When they do so, such exercise which are in other subject is expectant that student draw on increasingly diverse and complex sources of information which they select taking into accounts the issues of reliability and validity to plan their investigation or inquiry.
Meanwhile, according to the studies carried out by Council of RNR Research of Bhutan on the performance of the newly launched optional subject on Agriculture and Food Security and it has been found that was received very positively by most students.
The Agriculture and Education Ministries, at the beginning of this year, piloted the optional subject in 20 schools. As per the findings of the Agriculture and Forests Ministry, the subject though optional has attracted a good number of students.
“In total there are 638 students who have registered to take up agriculture subject, with 16 students in Zhemgang HSS and 63 students in Drujeygang HSS. It is also impressive to note that 70% girls are taking up the subject in Dungtse MSS and Gaselo HSS. Many subject teachers (agriculture) expressed their satisfaction from the turn over,” the report finding states.
However, since a huge number of students have taken up the subject, it is the teachers who have expressed that the challenge now is to teach the subject effectively and to reciprocate the aspiration of the students. This is an indication of the subject gaining more popularity in the schools.