For the better part of last year and early this year, the topical discussions that refused to die down concerned those of the high profile teachers who refused to be moved out of Thimphu, deteriorating quality of education - supposedly as a result of poorly trained and qualified teachers, and the introduction of NAPE system/method of teaching in our schools.
The Education Ministry brought out a rule that made it mandatory for a teacher posted in Thimphu for more than 20 years to be transferred out, without exception. Did the rule work? No idea, but I can bet you my last broken Chettrum that it most likely did not - given our penchant for breaking laws and opposing rules. Did the quality of education improve since? Most definitely NOT - most likely it has worsened even further.
I think the government and the people are barking up the wrong tree - in blaming the teachers and the NAPE system. They need to get a fresh perspective on what really ails our education system. Have we assessed the quality of our students? Is it possible that the falling standards of our education could be directly linked to the deteriorating quality of our students? Is it possible that if we work at improving the quality of our students, we could see improvement in the quality of education as well as the graduates we churn out?
However, my post is not really about the quality of education in Bhutan – but about a refreshingly “different” teacher I met in Langdurbi, Kheng Zhemgang during my tour of the Upper Kheng areas. His name is Yeshey Gyeltshen. His photo is posted below.
Mr. Yeshey Gyeltshen tells me that he has been posted in Langdurbi Community Primary School since 2009. Before that he was posted for three years (2006 – 2008) in Panbang – another community school in the remote Lower Kheng area. When I met him in 2010, he had already spent 5 years of his teaching career (and all of his working life) in the remote areas of Kheng. His wife is a NFE teacher and he has a daughter who studies in Class II.
He was enthusiastic, lively, cooperative and very, very helpful. He opened one of the dilapidated classrooms so that I and my assistants could sleep in it. In the evening I invited him and his family to dine with us. Although I was on the road for the past 16 days, I still had a few pieces of sikam in my zem that I wanted to share with him and his family, for his hospitality.
Over dinner the teacher explained to me why he was so happy to be working in rural Kheng. He explained that being in rural areas, he and his wife could save whatever they earned by way of salary. There were no shops to go to; since there was no road, he had no need for a car and therefore, no need to spend money on fuel; there was no party or dance culture in the villages, so he didn’t have to spend on gifts and such. And, as a teacher, the villagers and the parents of the students brought him vegetables and eggs and cheese and butter from time to time - a customary Bhutanese culture of Changjey for the venerable Lopen. The only money he needed to spend was on rice, salt and oil. Rest he either cultivated in his kitchen garden or the villagers provided them free. As a result, he did not experience the financial pressures his peers in the urban centres did.
At the end of the year, he confided to me that, even with their meager salaries, they easily saved close to Nu.90,000.00 between him and his wife. That money, he says, is enough for him to send home to help out his old parents. Further, with a glint in his eyes, he tells me that during the winter school workshops that he attends in the capital or Punakha or some such places, he finds that he is among the richest teachers in the group - because he finds that he is the only one who can treat the rest to lunches and dinners - because, although his colleagues drive cars, they barely have money enough to fuel them up.
He told me that he will be willing and happy to work in the rural areas. There is only one condition that he sets and hopes that his Ministry will understand. That is, he says that after his daughter passes out from Class VI, he wants to be transferred to some urban centre so that his daughter has the opportunity to continue her studies in a proper school.
Now, I dare say that Mr. Yeshey Gyeltshen is one school teacher who has his head screwed in on the right place.