Most students find learning English to be more challenging than Dzongkha

Education minister also says no to NC committee proposal to teach History in Dzongkha

Prospective employees may already know this, with most job applicants even unable to write a decent application letter in English, but a survey has confirmed that Bhutanese students find English more challenging to learn than Dzongkha.

A survey included in the Bhutan Education Blueprint 2014-2024 showed that 71.8 percent of surveyed students found English more challenging while only 53.8 percent found Dzongkha to be more challenging. Interestingly almost the same percentage enjoys learning English and Dzongkha with 85.6 percent for English and 83.7 percent for Dzongkha.

The popular assumption has been that students have been doing worse in Dzongkha than in English but here again the assumption has been challenged by BCSE statistics for class 12 and 10 board exams 2013, 2014 and 2015 show similar pass percentages between English and Dzongkha.

In fact in 2015 the Bhutan Higher Secondary Education Certificate (BHSEC) board exams for class 12 saw more students passing Dzongkha at 89 percent then English which was at 88.9 percent. Even in the other years for both class12 and 10 board exams the differences are marginal with similar pass percentages.

This data comes in the backdrop of the Special Committee on Education of the National Council recommending the need to strengthen Dzongkha curriculum to promote Dzongkha by reintroducing earlier textbooks on namthar and legshey, teaching Bhutanese history in Dzongkha and piloting Social Studies and Civics to be taught in Dzongkha.

The Education Minister Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk apart from clarifying that History will continue to be taught in English said that the perception that English is much better than Dzongkha is not true.

“Either English is equally as poor or good as Dzongkha. The Ministry has a lot of work cut out to improve English as well since in our schools,” said the minister.

Reversing the NC argument the minister said that the stance that other subjects taught in English will improve English is not true.

“Teaching other subjects in English has not improved the English language, therefore, teaching History in Dzongkha will not improve the Dzongkha language,” said the minister.

“We need to teach language subjects as languages to improve those languages,” added the minister.

Responding to the NC Special Committee’s recommendation the Education Minister said the suggestion essentially is to change the current medium of Education from English to Dzongkha.

“During the time of His Majesty The Third King we had the choice of Dzongkha, Hindi and English as the mediums of instruction. English was chosen by His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo as it is a suitable medium of instruction. The wisdom of His Majesty The Third King still stands and if there any changes to be made then it requires a national level reflection,” said Lyonpo.

The minister said that the government is not prepared to change the medium of instruction from English.

Lyonpo said if the suggestion to teach History, Social Studies and Civics in Dzongkha is to promote Dzongkha then there must be better ways to promote Dzongkha.

The minister said that in 2005-06 History was taught in Dzongkha for classes seven and eight for around two to three years.

“The impact was very bad as students neither learned Dzongkha as a language nor did they learn History. That is why the ministry reverted teaching History back to English,” said the minister.

Lyonpo pointed out there are Dzongkha teachers who are good in Dzongkha language they are not prepared to teach history as History requires different skill set to teach.

On the other hand the History teachers who were asked to teach History in Dzongkha did not have the skills to do so.

“So we have tried it and our research showed that we should continue to teach in English,” said the minister.

At the same time the minister said that promoting Dzongkha language in the country is important and this is an area the ministry is working on.

“We would like to have our children enjoy learning Dzongkha and for that, Dzongkha teachers must be equipped with the latest teaching skills and Dzongkha material should be attractive and enjoyable for students,” said the minister.

Lyonpo said that in the last few months Dzongkha teachers have been trained with the latest teaching skills to make Dzongkha enjoyable and fun for children.

To make Dzongkha textbooks more learning friendly the ministry is already working with the Royal Education Council on Dzongkha texts and materials.

Lyonpo said that Dzongkha suffered in the past because while the skills of other subject teachers were upgraded somehow Dzongkha teachers were left out. He also said that the reading materials in the Dzongkha language subjects were limited due to a lack of writers then which should not be a problem now with many good writers and materials coming up.

Current students between pre primary and class three have to take both Dzongkha as a subject and also learn Environmental Studies in Dzongkha.

Here too, Lyonpo said there were already challenges as some were teaching the subject as EVS while others were taking it as a second Dzongkha language class and so the distinction was not clear.




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