Teaching English in Pre-Primary in Bhutan: Teachers’ Viewpoint on the change in curriculum
Master of Education Studies
University of Canberra, Australia
Bhutan has come long way to attend this level of educational reforms and achievements. The education policy to provide free education in Bhutan has witnessed significant progress in providing quality human capital and enabling socio-economic development. Nonetheless, the transition of education system to the 21st Century teaching-learning process has been challenged with numerous difficulties and issues. According to the National Council of Bhutan Report (2016), the quality of education concerns the Nation.
1.1. A brief history of modern education in Bhutan
The introduction to modern education system in Bhutan dates back in 1914 (over 100 years) where 46 students (all male) were sent to Mission School in Kalimpong, India and Bhutan’s first modern school in Haa was established (Wangmo & Choden, 2011). Another school was also established in Bumthang in the following year. In 1919 to 1920, these schools observed a total of 49 students studying under foreign teachers (Hirayama, n.d). The establishment of these schools landmarked the era of evolution for modern education in Bhutan. Since then most of the school curriculum was borrowed from India and many Indian teachers were invited to teach in Bhutan. The early period of modernization of education has experienced the Anglo-Indian School characteristics of “Vessel filling” which is otherwise known popularly as “Teacher Centeredness” (Gyamtso, Sherab and Maxwell, 2017).
The inception of modern education system had brought vigorous changes in education policy and the school curriculum. In 1960s, government began to promote modern education and included ‘English Language’ curriculum as the second language to be taught to the students (Rinchen, 2008). According to Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye in his reflection report on “Education System in Bhutan-Past, Present and Future” stated that the modern education was oriented towards administrative purposes, gaining access to the world and English as an international language had superior access to the world’s knowledge, philosophy, technology, science, etc. Further, in 1995, His Majesty the Fourth King commanded;
“To achieve the objective of giving our children good education and productive jobs, there is a need to review the policy of education and refine them wherever necessary. You should amend the syllabuses and give priority to subjects which will make our students productive, and promote opportunities for jobs within Bhutan, instead of keeping many subjects starting from the lower classes… As per the current time there is a need to introduce programmes of good counseling and teachings to develop good moral conduct in our children… Amongst various steps, the most important step of developing the system of education is to promote our teachers. Therefore, the pay and allowances of our teachers should be increased to solve the urgent problem of shortage of teachers.”
1.2. Transition of education system in Bhutan
In recent years the modern education system in Bhutan has transited to 21st Century Teaching-Learning processes. The 21st Teaching-Learning process recognizes and imbibes the Western model of education. According to Gyamtso, Sherab and Maxwell (2017), the assimilation of Western idea has shifted the focus of ‘Teacher Centered’ to ‘Student Centered’ learning.
The 21st Century Teaching-Learning pedagogy and andragogy called ‘New Approach to Primary Education (NAPE)’ was initially introduced to the education policy reform in 1990 and it gave break through the old traditional education system in the country. The introduction to NAPE has driven the Bhutan’s education system to follow the middle path – neither too modern nor too orthodox – root of learning. The strategic framework for education “Education Sector Strategy: Realizing the Vision 2020” was then developed in 2000 and it mandates to achieve the education sector as the apex body to contribute in national development initiatives. The National Education Policy Draft (2018) states that “the curriculum plays pivotal role in achieving the purpose of education and should provide variety of experiences and knowledge that enables learners to think rationally, be reflective and understand world through various disciplines”.
The ponderous change in the education system and policy reforms has had implication on the subject delivery in schools. The question of poor quality education or deteriorating quality of education has always been raised and discussed.
2. PROBLEM STATEMENT
The transition of education system in Bhutan has raised various challenges in achieving its mandates. The transition has placed Ministry of Education (MoE) to strive towards next goal of higher learning through text books and curriculum revision with “Value Based Education” and “Inclusive Education”. The change in the school curriculum and corresponding textbooks has put pressure on the learners and as well as to the teachers. Although the current school curriculum has been developed by educationalists and experts in the respective fields, the implementation of teaching-learning processes accordingly has been affected by several impeding factors. For example, since the introduction of NAPE in 2000 teachers in schools had difficulties in coping up with the change in the curriculum and education system had to follow the middle path.
The difference in the pedagogy necessitated by the curriculum and handling of the activities in schools had affected teachers’ methods of delivery of some of the subjects like English. According to McCarthy (2015), refugee students are over burden with the curriculum transition. The shift in English curriculum has brought various pedagogical variations in school and has impeded the potential of both teachers and students. An interview with former Lyonpo Thinley Gyamtsho (2011) has revealed that apart from English language, other subjects like Dzongkha, Economics, History, Geography and the wholesome education have improved in Bhutan. He also argues that overall level of education in Bhutan is far below standard with compared to countries like Denmark, Canada, Australia and Singapore.
The issue of quality of education and the difficulties faced by teachers in embedding the new pedagogy and andragogy questions the quality of teachers in the schools. MoE (2008) on contrary states that with the change in curriculum, “continuous assessment has been introduced as part of teaching-learning program in schools through series of in-service workshops for teachers and also integrated into the pre-service teacher training”.
Further, as the quality of education is a subjective issue and can only be measured by the academic performance such as result-based examinations, the lack of standard measures to analyze the quality of education has also incited the prominent question. Therefore, this study aims to study curriculum challenges in Bhutan through teachers’ perception on teaching English as a second language in year 7.
3. SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
A brief review of the literature on education system, education policy reforms, curriculum and teaching pedagogy in Bhutan indicates the existence of education policy and framework gap. Yet there is a lack of studies that focus on the nature of the gap. There is a need to understand where the gap exists, and the type of programs required with the introduction of new curriculum especially with focused to English. Such understanding would help educationalists and experts to develop a curriculum and related programs that enables students to learn and teachers to teach with appropriate pedagogy. Moreover, this research can help future research to guide or it can be a reference for their research.
There is also a lack of study that takes into account the school teachers and their experince while developing professional development programs and institionalising the new curriculum. Gathering their perspective and experience is important to understand the feasibility of each Western syllabus and pedagogy in Bhutan. Since teachers are the most important stakeholder in the education system, the issues related to fulfilling MoE mandates and upscalling quality of education, teachers perspective and experinces provides a holistic understand of the situtaion. So, this research will be the rflection that will use as a tool to making policy and curriculum in the education according to the need of the children.
The improvement in the teaching pedagogy through professional development of school teachers will ensure the achievement of quality education and entrust the vision of GNH. The purpose of this study is to assess the teachers’ perspective on teaching English in Pre-Primary and to provide evidence and basis for further improvement in teaching pedagogical frameworks while bring changes in the English curriculum. It will also serve as a benchmark to the field-based intervention programs to increase teachers and student’s performance and enhance quality of education in the country.
4. RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The study propose the following overaching queastion and the sub questions
– How do the English teachers of pre-primary tackle with the curriculum changes?
1. How does the curriculum change effects the teacher’s professional development?
2. What are the pros and cons of the recent English curriculum?
3. What are the methodologies used to improve English in pre-primary?
5. LITERATURE REVIEW
Several literatures have revealed that second language acquisition has not made their way into language policy and classroom pedagogy as the large scale national curriculum reforms around the world have focused on the communicative approach (Uysal ; Bardakci, 2014). However, according to Hu and Baumann (2014), during the period of contemporary education the modern national school in China was inclined towards the American model and the establishment of new English education curriculum required English to be taught in Chinese schools.
The number of people learning English globally increases every year and countries have started to acquire English syllabus as second language in their national education policy. The evaluation of benefits of learning English by scholars has indicated strong link with diverse aspects – for example job and career prospects. However, there is need for curricula to transit pedagogically to provide smooth shift for both learners as well teachers (National Geographic Learning).
The development of national education policy aligned for the foreign or second language for example English has gained attention across educationalists with regard to the pedagogical reflection as it requires teacher expertise in curriculum design and methodological rigor. Capperucci (2017) stated that “curriculum design requires the activation of intellectual, operation, relational and technical resources, aimed at translating a specific vision of the world and human beings into instructional actions”. Further Rixon (2013) stated that reforms in the education curriculum have been found in some way affecting the English delivery in schools by teachers. The report also emphasized that the teacher supply, categories of teachers and teacher’s qualifications also have greater implications on the teaching English in schools. The medium of instruction in the schools especially in English session has also affect on the successful implementation of English curriculum. According to Dearden (2014), lack of linguistically qualified teachers has led to no expectations of English Language proficiency that affected the pedagogical guidelines of teaching and learning.
Moreover, teachers’ professional development for the quality subject delivery and students’ learning is the foremost and must be pursued by any education policies. It is found that there is negligible English Medium Instruction (EMI) content initial teacher education programmes and continuing professional development courses (Dearde, 2014). Capperucci (2017) also asserted that the current school curriculum nature and methodological frameworks requires improvement in the teachers’ professional profile, and design competence. He also argued that with the change in the curriculum and promoting teachers’ competences it is also important to monitor and evaluate the legislation impact. For example, in Netherland the government had been promoting bilingual education actively through school network formation, providing trainings to teachers, supporting schools for high quality programs and establishment of quality and accreditation system (Bot, 2014).
According to OECD (2009), teachers’ strategies aligned with curriculum change depends on their beliefs, practices and attitudes. The consolidation of teaching strategies has always proved to be the best methods for developing and recognizing the learners’ output. However, for teaching English ‘Active and Participatory Approaches’ demonstrated to be more effective in delivering quality school curriculum based on the students’ achievement (Capperucci, 2017). Further, the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) framework had been useful for accessing the teachers’ beliefs, attitude, practices, and determinants for the students’ outcomes (OECD, 2009). This framework is also helpful to examine the comparison between schools and countries.
Therefore, the assessment on the curriculum challenges has now become one of the most prioritized issues in Bhutan to achieve quality of education for better socio-economic development prospects.
The Paradigm of proposed study will be Pragmaticism. This paradigm is about the reality that constantly renegotiated, debated, interpreted, and therefore the best method to use is the one that solves the problem which will be relevant to this study.
Lhuntse Dzongkhag (District) will be selected for the study based on its certain characteristics; (i) It is located in the East of Bhutan, (ii) One of the largest Dzongkhags in the country, (iii) Under socio-economic development, (iv) Native language is Sharshop and (v) School children usually excel in Maths and Science Subjects but tend to perform low in English.
From this selected Dzongkhag, seven Middle Secondary – few now identified as Central schools – such as Minjay Middle Secondary School, Autsho Central School, Lhuntse Primary School, Tshochen Community School, Ladrong Primary School and Tangmachu Central School will be purposively selected for the study.
Data Collection Method
The proposed study will apply mixed method research. This method involves the collection and analysis of both quantitative as well as qualitative data. For the quantitative study, administrative data and reports from relevant agencies will be analyzed such as Quality Assurance and Accreditation Division, Higher Education Planning Division, education policy, and Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment. This will be supplemented by a collection of primary data through survey method. The data on intervention program and the perception of teachers will be collected through Focus Group Discussion (FGD).
For the qualitative method, an in-depth semi-structured interview and FGD will be used. These methods will be applied to collect information on the curriculum challenges faced by teachers teaching English in year 7.
For in-depth semi-structured interview and FGD among the teachers teaching English in year 7, purposive sampling will be used. The purposive sampling of the respondents will ensure variations on the teachers’ perspective as it will be based on different level of teaching experience, pedagogy and andragogy methods, professional performance, and demographic characteristics.
Since the study uses emergent design, data saturation will determine the number of teachers interviewed for the study. From the selected Dzongkhag a minimum of two English teaching teachers will be interviewed. At least one FGD will be conducted in each of the selected Schools.
The proposed study will use various analysis techniques. For quantitative data, the univariate, bivariate and multivariate analysis will be used. SPSS will be the main software for data analysis and management. For qualitative data, the phenomenological approach will be used to capture lived experience and its associated meanings.
7. RESEARCH PLAN
This research study will be conducted for the duration of one year from January 2019 to December 2019.
Table 1: Research Plan
Sl. No. Activity Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
1 Research Proposal development
2 Questionnaire development and Pre-testing
3 Data Collection
4 Data entry
5 Data Analysis
6 Research Report Writing
7 Report Finalization and Submission
This proposed study will be for a year and the activities that will be conducted in a year are, research proposal Development that will be completed within on month. And for questionnaire development and pre-testing is for one month and data collection is for two months as that will take time in collecting the data from various fields. For data entry it is for one month and for data analysis two months as to go through all data collected one by and analysis will take more time. For research report writing I have kept four months as it must be work out exactly what the reader wants to know in order to make sure the writing have relevant information. Final one is report finalization and submission and for that it is for two month overlapping time research report as it will go simultaneously at the end on the report writing.
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