Schools in the high-risk zones are still on high alert even though no positive COVID-19 cases have been found in the past few weeks.
There are also schools taking face-to-face classes without interruption in the low-risk dzongkhags, at the same time, the schools are well prepared and equipped if any lockdown is called for in the future.
Principal of Samtse High School, Tshueltrim Dorji, said although they are taking face-to-face classes, but the normal class teaching flow has been affected due to frequent lockdowns, and they are a little behind the syllabus coverage. However, the school is prepared, in case there is another lockdown in the future.
He said online teaching would be implemented when required. And if need be, he said, the school can operate under a self-containment mode, which requires much support. Such a plan might be a little difficult since Samtse High School is a day school with infrastructure and facility constraint.
“The best option is to continue with the online classes, in case there is a lockdown, as teachers are well trained, comparatively far better, on providing online teaching than in the past. Teachers are well equipped,” said the Principal Tshueltrim Dorji.
Students have also been made aware on how to access and learn through the online classes. The students received sessions on online classes earlier in the year. But when it comes to efficiency, many students shared that online classes are not as fruitful as face-to-face classroom learning.
During the lockdown, the students had online classes, and again the same lessons were taught, for the second time, when they returned back to school as the lockdown was lifted.
Mongar Higher Secondary School (MHSS) is a boarding school with a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for uninterrupted academic session 2021. The Principal of MHSS, Kinga Rinchen, said the academic session 2020 has been a challenging year worldwide.
“The operation of the school should not be deterred by any kind of situation and circumstances. Teaching and learning should continue without interruption. The pandemic taught a very good lesson for all the educationists around the world. There has been a 180 degree shift in the way people look towards education and the way it is delivered. Most of the schools turned out to be moved from classroom based learning to online learning. For the session 2021, MHSS hopes to continue teaching the learning process without hindrance,” said the Principal.
The school has also looked into the possibility of having all day-scholar students admitted as boarders on interim ground, with accommodation arrangements made in Multi Purpose Hall for boys, and for the girls, in the dining hall.
The Principal shared that many students, who are interested in learning, have taken their time for online classes and has shown good learning outcomes.
He added that one of the greatest challenge that the school faces is the inconsistency of instructions from the Ministry of Education, with regards to the online classes. There has to be an instruction stating that once children are registered in the school, they should have the means to attend the classes, whether it is online or contact teaching learning process.
Teachers and students need to be well versed with the ICT knowledge, and the media platform that is in use for the online teaching learning process. For the same, they should work out ways to upgrade their knowledge as per the demand of the current era, he said.
“The government has done enough to upgrade the knowledge of teachers in ICT. As per our knowledge all the Bhutanese teachers are trained in ICT through Chiphen Rigphel program. And parents need to support the students’ learning through the provision of time and facilities. Instead of making wasteful expenses such as on games, alcohol and other things, it could be spent on gadgets for their children,” he said.
The school has asked the education ministry to consider their request of a mid-day meal for the day scholars.
“Having this mid-day lunch for day scholars would facilitate the interrupted classes in the event of a national lockdown,” he said, further adding that food ration and stipend for day scholars is an essential need if they have to be temporarily put up as boarders during the event of a national lockdown.
Similarly, the Principal of Changzamtog Middle Secondary School (CMSS) in Thimphu shared that they are taking up every safety measure, and not letting their guards down. The school is well prepared for online classes and students and parents are equally informed. Even at this juncture, the school has started with games and sports but without cheering groups.
In case there are lockdowns in the future, the school is prepared, as the school has been emphasizing on online teaching. However, there are still a few students without gadgets to take up online classes.
COVID-19 has affected the normal school learning-teaching routine. After the mid-term period, the CMSS is providing remedial classes to the students. The school has also received many admission applications from students from Phuentsholing, but due to the lack of infrastructure, CMSS has had to deny their applications.