Ministry of Education

School reopening plan impacted by outbreaks across the border

Due to the uncertainty over the possibility of a community transmission of COVID-19, the government is still not able to take a decision on reopening schools in the low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk areas.

MoE carried out the risk assessment on the reopening of schools and it found that it is better to reopen schools. However, due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the border areas of Phuentsholing and Samtse, the reopening of schools this week was cancelled, as the virus can spread fast through students if schools are reopened.

Jaigaon saw five cases and Chamurchu across the Samtse gate got its first case. All six patients are said to have recovered how the cases show that COVID-19 has reached right up to Bhutan’s doorsteps. There have also been outbreaks in other areas in West Bengal and Assam not far from Bhutan’s borders.

The Ministry of Education (MoE) has been strictly maintaining records of all the students since March for the yearly assessment. All schools are keeping records of the student’s assignments, reactions and interactions during this particular time. MoE records show that students’ participation via Google Classroom has decreased as compared to early March.

MoE is also concerned about the academic progress for students in classes 10 and 12. Therefore, the ministry has been exploring options to reopen schools for classes 9 to 12 under strict health protocols. If the classes go well in first phase, then class 7 and class 8 will also be resumed maintaining the protocols. If the first phase reopening fails then only classes 10 and 12 will be resumed in a quarantine mode, where all the students will be kept together in one hostel along with their teachers.

Education Minister Jai Bir Rai said the mid-term and trial exams are conducted to test and prepare the students for the board exams. But now, the situation has changed, and it will be difficult to conduct mid-term and trial exams, especially since maintaining physical distance is not possible, the minister added.

For now, MoE is collecting information on the progress of each and every student through his or her assignments and presence in the Google Classroom sessions. And towards the end of June, the students will be assessed and reviewed.

Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai also said it will be very difficult to assess all the students since some of them do not have devices to connect to online learning, and are learning through self-instructional materials, television, and radio. MoE has managed to keep the online teaching and learning going despite of the challenges in infrastructure.

A prioritized curriculum will be rolled out when the schools are reopened. Lyonpo said if the schools are reopened partially then it will not be fair on the students as the prioritized curriculum covers 70 percent of its content, whereas the adaptive curriculum has 30 percent weightage. There is almost 40 percent of difference.

With the COVID-19 cases in the country increasing, it is likely that MoE will be following the adaptive curriculum assessment. “If schools don’t reopen in the next three months, then the ministry will continue with the adaptive curriculum,” Lyonpo reiterated.

With regard to questions, queries and confusion in terms of examinations, MoE said although there will no conventional examinations, but the ministry has kept strict measures of assessment in place. MoE also addressing psychosocial issues by coming up with counseling activities and different programs in order to maintain and improve the quality of education in these desperate times.

Some students thought that there will be no exams, so some of them were in Thimphu loitering around or visiting their relatives and not studying or attending their online classes, said Lyonpo.

Meanwhile, Lyonpo requested all the parents to not worry about their children’s education. He said they should instead worry about their children’s whereabouts and monitor them. “MoE is the most affected ministry and we request everyone to understand and support the ministry,” said Lyonpo.

The ministry also requests the parents to have their children to attend the online classes and not let them go out frequently at leisure, as it is not a vacation time. Due to the pandemic, students and teachers forced to be home for online classes.

Lyonpo also cautioned the parents of younger students in class 7 and above to monitor their children’s online activities in the cyber world.

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