E-learning to be used
Email to be created for 79,000 students
Ministry of Education (MoE) will institute Education in Emergency for the students in government and private schools during the nationwide school closure period aimed at three months or more.
The teaching and learning program will start from first week of April. However, the government has decided to air program on 25 March to see how it goes, and accordingly, work to improve on it.
Education Minister JB Rai said the main work right now is to create Google emails for approximately 79,000 students. Currently, they have created emails for almost 50,000 students and teachers in the country.
Lyonpo said the government has no idea on how long the COVID-19 situation will go on for, and how the situation will turn out in the future as the fight against the coronavirus is ongoing. Due to such a situation globally, the education ministry has started to go for the e-learning platform.
Lyonpo said some students are already using the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) module, especially college students. The schools that do not have proper computer lab facilities will not be able to start the e-learning immediately as the computer labs have to be built from scratch, Lyonpo added. The purchase of gadgets and instrument are in the pipeline.
“I am not sure whether all the parents have televisions in their homes or smart phones. Another challenge would be if all the teachers and students start using the telecom services at one time. Internet services will not be sufficient and it will be clogged totally because almost around 174,000 students will be using and on top of them higher education students, around 12,000, will also be using. So almost 220,000 teachers and students will be involved in e-learning. In that case, I am not sure whether the telecom services are ready for that. However, Bhutan Telecom and TashiCell are working together to facilitate the teaching learning,” Lyonpo expressed.
Lyonpo said despite all the challenges, the government is determined to start and develop the teaching learning materials that will be broadcast through BBS1 and BBS2.
The program will aired for an average of five hours in both channels everyday. All the subjects cannot be taught within five hours, therefore, only Dzongkha, English, Mathematics and Science including other important subjects will be taught. The preprimary and primary level students will be taught numeracy and literacy.
Lyonpo said one subject teacher, for example, a physics teacher will be teaching the entire class 10 students in the country. If the students do not understand the lesson then they can log into the Goggle classroom and ask their doubts to their respective physics teacher.
Bhutan Council for School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA) and Royal Education Council (REC) are working on the online teaching curriculum. For example, when a teacher is teaching English to class 11 students, even the class 12 students can attend the teaching online, as the content is quite similar. REC has relooked the curriculum and designed appropriate lessons to be taught online.
Lyonpo said timetable for the students is to be issued. The teachers will be in constant touch with their students so they can inform them on the lessons to be aired on BB1 and BBS2.
The lesson shooting has already been started, said Lyonpo. The ministry plans to focus more on class 10 and 12 lessons since the students have board exams. BCSEA will also work on how to assess the lessons. The video of the lessons aired on BBS1 and BBS2 will be uploaded in the ministry’s website and students can download the videos from YouTube.
Lyonpo also said that any student having difficulty understanding the lessons can clear their doubts by logging to the Google classroom equipped with question and answers platform. However, parents or guardians must be with the primary level students to guide them.
For the students that do not have televisions or smart phones and other facilities, the government has requested them to do self-study at home.
“We also thought of not closing schools in the remote parts of Bhutan but we do not want to take any chance for the virus to spread in the remote locality since the people and students abroad are coming back home and they will definitely go to their villages. So that is the reason why the government had to shut down all the schools in Bhutan,” said Lyonpo.
Lyonpo said such e-Education is a good opportunity for everyone because it is how the 21st teaching and learning should be. “There will be problems along with it, but then we must work towards it. In a month, we will be able to find out the real challenges and look for alternatives,” Lyonpo said that in a long run, it will benefit everyone and it is also a good preparation because nobody had thought about e-Education.
Lyonpo said the top most priority is safety of the children, and in order to keep students engaged, the ministry came up with online teaching and learning. As long as the people and children are healthy, one can learn, anytime, added Lyonpo.
While some parents have expressed that their children may not able to understand the classes taught in Google classroom, however, Lyonpo said that such concerns are expected since the teaching medium is totally new. He said teachers and students along with parents should work together to help each other. There is also a group chat where all students, parents and teachers are in touch.
Lyonpo requested the parents to participate and get involved and provide feedback on the new learning initiation so the ministry can work on it accordingly.
“There maybe cases where the online teaching learning may not go smoothly but I request parents not to get disappointed. We are working really hard, and it is a time for us to work together and show our integrity and solidarity. It is a time to encourage our teachers and students,” said Lyonpo.
“My worry is for those students who are orphans, and also those Special Education Needs students because these students already need more help, so the education ministry has activated counseling for those affected students, and I want them to study well and also to remind all the students that shutting down of schools does not mean it’s a holiday but it is for their safety,” said Lyonpo.
There are a total of 173,660 pre-primary to class 12 students in the country. All Non Formal Education (NFE), extended classroom and ECCD are also closed. There are around 512 college students in the Royal University of Bhutan and 580 schools in the country.