Questioning the Quality of Education

_LP-TASHIOf late there has been a barrage of criticism, ranging from intensive press coverage to “educated” views hurled at the education sector on the perceived decline in the quality of education in Bhutan. Some of these views are expressed out of concern, some in jest, and some, simply to ridicule. However, in view of the incessant scrutiny and indiscriminate emotional outpour of thoughts and opinions, it would be worthwhile pondering on what the big fuss is all about. As the editorial page of one newspaper stated, all the voluminous observations on the supposed decline in the quality of education “have to be a superficial analysis at best. It is not based on a substantive study.” It would also be worth while bearing in mind that we are talking quality of education against the backdrop of ‘national apathy’ for teachers and working conditions of teachers that sometimes border on the primitive. Quality education needs quality teachers who are human beings after all! Unless basic issues confronting teachers and schools are addressed first, such accusations will only serve to demoralize the teachers and kindle the flame of despair.

The recent incidents of abuse that have been highlighted in the press should not overshadow the hard work of the rest in this sector. People should not pass a blanket judgment over the entire Education System simply based on these few incidents. Surely we cannot forget or dismiss these incidents, but rather learn from them. What we also have to understand is that like every sector, despite all the advancements we will make in Education, there will also be setbacks.
Quality is defined as “the standard of something when it is compared to other things like it – how good or bad something is.” If we use this definition to gauge the rise or decline in the quality of education, then a comparative analysis with a time-tested yard stick might have to be used and will be more accurate. How do we then measure the present standard of education? All the accusations against the ‘perceived’ decline in the quality of education are hypothetical at best and over-zealous at worst. When we say that there is decline in the quality of education, we use certain pointers, certain yardsticks, as it were, and do a comprehensive analysis before arriving at such a convenient conclusion. A comprehensive study, if one were taken, would have to look into the present system of education that goes far beyond the four walls of the classroom. With emerging and re-emerging educational philosophies and studies, the scope and horizon of schools as societies and places of learning have under gone dramatic changes. The once accepted model of teaching/learning is simply inadequate and does not address the changing needs of the students and the society. Hence there is the need for diversified programs and activities, whether academic or ex-academic, to address the growing and developmental needs of the learners. In that sense, the quality and variety of educational programs have increased and widened. The focus on basic rudimentary skills not withstanding, the fluency over language and arithmetic have shown an upward rise. Teachers struggle with all these, day in and day out, while the rest of us are busy dedicating and rededicating ourselves to the service of the Tsa-Wa-Sum from our revolving chairs.
At the ground level, at the frontiers, the educational programs today are well packaged to meet the changing needs of the students and the society. Development of life skills, holistic growth of students, encompassing all forms of intelligences, are topics that are being taken very seriously by the Education system in Bhutan. (I just thought it sounded too light  and not serious enough by saying its offered on the menu like a restaurant.)
In the final analysis, besides the ability to read and write -incidentally all that talk on declining standard of education is based purely on this premise, there are a whole lot of aspects that holistic education needs to encompass. And our schools, and teachers, are well on their way to providing just that – preparing students for life.

The writer works in the Ministry of Education.
He can be contacted at [email protected]

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