Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dogs

I love dogs. Since time immemorial dogs have been men’s best friend. Even from religion point of view, we consider dogs to be near-to-human form of life

Nowadays, more and more dogs have come to live in our school campus. May be they are giving the school extra protection when everybody has gone out for winter break. This is absolutely what they have been doing for ages-sincerely guarding home and property when the owner is out. And it is fine to have dogs in the school at this time. I can hear them bark at night. I can see them bark at strangers. They are at their best in doing what they have been doing for ages.

But sadly, men grossly misunderstand dogs. We consider them to be a social menace. We condemn canine howling for disturbing our sleep. They are often beaten up or shooed away. That's exactly whats been done to the dogs in the school. And what worse! Most of them are infected with diseases. They are suffering from mange and recently an unexplained skin lesion is getting rampant. The infections are getting worse by the day. But no matter how bad their infections are, they never fail to carry out their duty for men. My heart simply aches to see them in pain. They need medical treatments.

Lesion
Lesion
Mange
Lesion
Earlier in August, I took three sick dogs to the veterinary hospital with the help of few students. Two made to normal lives while I lost one. Last Saturday I caught two more by setting up snare traps. They had lesions on their body. One had it on its butt and the other on its abdomen. Unfortunately the veterinary hospital was closed. So I tied them up to give my version of treatment. I had the leftover of the medicines I got from the veterinary earlier in august. They became anxious and skittish when I went near them. I had to maintain distance for safety. I sprayed the medicine on the infection and let them free.

But my little actions for these dogs are too insignificant. I am fighting a losing battle. The treatments I give them are not doing much good. The wounds are not healing. The infection is spreading on to more dogs. There is need for more significant intervention from responsible organization.

Dogs are by no means social menaces. They are social animals rather, and it's obvious to have them living among human population. And much like men they get sick and that's when they need our help. When they are rabid or suffer from other diseases it wouldn't be right to beat them or chase them. Their sense of friendship with men is unwavering. But men need to change their outlook on dogs. 

It is apt to bring in Carey Ford's quote-'Trained well, men can become dog's best friend'

PS: This is the last post for the year. I wish all the readers a very Happy New Year. May the new year shower you with bountiful peace, happiness, success, health and prosperity. Until next time with another post, its goodbye.



Thursday, December 4, 2014

Abstract of My Paper Published in RABSEL: The CERD Educational Journal, Volume XV, Autumn 2014.

Patterns of Teacher-Student Verbal Interaction in the Tenth Grade
Biology Classes in Samtse District
Tshewang Rabgay

ABSTRACT
Grounded in the importance of classroom interaction in teaching and learning, this study examined the pattern of teacher-student verbal interaction in grade ten biology classes using Flanders Interaction Analysis System (FIAS). The sample of the study consisted of 8 teachers and 383 class 10 biology students from three higher secondary schools and a middle secondary school in Samtse district. Seventeen grade 10 biology classes were observed using a coding chart. The data obtained were analyzed using the decoding process prescribed in FIAS. The study was significant because its findings and conclusions may stimulate teachers to improve their interaction practices in order to maximize students learning.

The findings revealed that 75.71% of the time was used for ‘lecturing’ making it the most popular approach. The findings also revealed that teacher talk (85.23%) was much more than student talk time (11.38%) which indicated that classroom interaction was dominated by teachers. It was also found that teachers’ used more direct influence (77.27%) through lecturing and giving directions than indirect influence (7.96%) which include behaviors like accepting students’ feelings, praising, encouraging, accepting or using students ideas and asking questions. By and large the findings indicated that teacher dominated classroom interaction continues to be the dominant teaching trend in teaching tenth grade biology in Samtse district. The study confirmed previous studies done in Bhutan which reported similar findings.


Key words: Classroom Interaction, Flanders Interaction Analysis System (FIAS), Biology Class.
PS: Read the full paper in the 'Research and Publication' page on the left sidebar

Monday, October 27, 2014

Gurglary

This post was written on 26th august, the next day after an unforgettable theft from my house but retained from posting for some reasons. But now I've decided to post it.

Sunday, 24th August, in the dead of the night at around 12-1 a.m. a burglar broke into my house and stole my properties and it all happened while we were sleeping in blissful ignorance (gasp). It's shocking that somebody came so close to me presumably spent about five minutes yet I couldn't get a tinge of clue of his presence. It was a premeditated and a strategically planned act. And I can't believe that I have become a victim of such an act.

Upon analyzing the incident, I learnt that the act was planned long in advance. I also learnt that the stranger had spied on me for the past few weeks and waited for the right time to execute the plan. The person had sneaked his way into the school campus and observed me through the windows of my house for quite sometime. Scary! Isn't' it?

Sunday night was an unusual night for me. Normally I would go to bed at 9:30 p.m. but that night I wasn't sleepy till 11:45 p.m. as though God was trying to hint on me about the eminent theft. My wife and kids had already gone to bed after dinner. Till 10:45 pm I watched Manchester United-Sunderland football match. But even after the match I wasn't sleepy. Then I started to worry of oversleeping the next morning and getting late to school. So I decided to go to bed and force myself to sleep. I switched off the TV checked if the main door was latched and the windows were closed. I found them all closed. With a settled mind I went to bed. On the bed I still couldn't find any sleep. That night it was really difficult to beat my sleepless mind. I reached to my bookshelf and picked a book. Reading the book eventually put me to sleep. But it wasn't a peaceful sleep yet. I was half asleep half awake. I could hear the sound of the fan and feel the cold air brushing against my body. I could hear my little son coughing. Suddenly, the air was no longer cold and I was feeling hot. The room had become pitch dark. In the half awakened mind I knew that there was a power outage. The heat and the pitch darkness finally won over my sleepless mind and put me to a complete sleep.    

The next morning, my daughter woke up before anybody since she goes to school in the first shift which starts at 6:30 am. Suddenly she shouted from the sitting room 'Apa! There is a hole on our window!!!'. I quickly woke up to check. I saw the plastic net I had put over the window few months ago cut out to a size big enough for a man to get through. The sliding window was slid open and the main door was also wide open.  My wife woke up and she was horrified. We knew that a thief had broken in. Promptly, we checked for things in the house. Everything was intact in the sitting-room and alter-room. The last I checked was my bedroom because I least doubted anything to be lost from the bedroom. But to my utter dismay I found my laptop bag missing from under my study table. No sooner did we notice the missing lap top than my wife was aghast. At first we thought the thief had taken only the lap top but later we realized that we had some cash in the bag. Ngultrum nine thousand. That made my wife all the more frantic.      

The plastic net was cut out to a size big enough for a man to get through.
The cut out section of the net
I dialed 113 and informed the police. The man on the phone said that they were on their way. In the mean time I went out to check for any more destruction done to my house. I found that a chair had been propped against the wall and had been used as a climbing device. I also found the plastic nets had been cut in two more places. One in the bedroom window right above my head and the other one in the kitchen window. The thief had used these two windows to get a view of me. When I was in the sitting room watching TV he used the kitchen window and when I was in my bedroom reading, he watched me through the bedroom window. 

A chair was propped against the wall which was used for climbing 
One more cutting on my bedroom window 
Just then the police arrived and they examined the 'modus operandi' and they added one more case to the dozens they had already listed.     

On searching for any clue about the thief, I found an object that belonged to the thief in the kitchen-an amulet. I don't know whether it was left intentionally or unintentionally. It had an image of a Hindu God engraved on it and the first thing that popped up in my mind when I saw the amulet was that the thief could have been an Indian. But the police and I couldn't ascertain that the person was an Indian. We thought that the person might have intentionally left it to lure our minds to suspect for an Indian. People who came to see me speculated that the amulet thread might have snapped when the person squeezed in through the window and obliviously dropped the amulet in the kitchen.


The amulet
The incident has left my family traumatized. My wife and kids feel the aftermath. They are psychologically disturbed. My kids do not sleep without me by their side. My wife says that she feels haunted. But my wife and I agree that we are lucky in a way. The person, whoever it may be, just took away the lap top without inflicting any physical harm to anyone in the family. My wife often tells me that if anyone of us would have noticed the thief and woken up, it would have put our lives on the line.

Later that day, police were reported of two more theft cases from the college of education. That made three theft cases in a day. That day, theft became the talk of the town and it made people in Samtse stay hyper-alert at home. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

X E's Hanging Garden

Earlier the school announced class ten and twelve students to work on a project within the school for SUPW grades. My class, X E, has chosen to build what they call 'The hanging garden'. Unlike the Hanging Gardens of Babylon where plants were not hung but grown on concrete structures, X E students really want to hang their garden.

Enthusiastic about their project, they started planning on the site and the paraphernalia. They decided the small area just below the parking lot in front of the school gate as its site. They agreed to collect some money to buy the materials required. I discouraged them from collecting money but they insisted that for SUPW grades they would do anything. They ordered a cuboid metal frame 15x7x10ft from the bordering town of new Chamarchi. However, owing to its big size reaching it to the school was a problem. It didn't fit even in the DCM truck I arranged for them. Therefore, they decided to carry it from checkpoint to the school.

From the border gate to school gate
Placing the metal frame at the site 
Painting it to prevent from rusting
Smudged with paint 
It's been few weeks since they started to work and thus far everything has worked out well. When everybody would go home they would stay back and work on it. While some would be engaged in scrubbing off rust from the metal frame others would be engaged in leveling the ground where the frame will be fixed. More recently they have painted the frame to prevent from rusting and they are now waiting for it to dry. In the mean while they are planning on the type of flowers to be hung.

Over the past few weeks, as they worked on it, I have observed them working with the qualities we expect of students. The project has brought them to work closely as a team. It shows how common goals can bring people together.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Factors Militating Against Students Academic Performance in Samtse Higher Secondary School

An overview of my next study. It's a small scale study. I welcome comments la.

Research Title
Factors Militating Against Students Academic Performance in Samtse Higher Secondary School

Background:
Recently the academic performance of students of Samtse Higher Secondary School has come under the spotlight for a number of reasons. It has been found that students’ academic performance in both home-exams and board-exams has gone down drastically. The Bhutan Council for Assessment and Examinations’ (BCSEA) pupil performance report, 2012 has ranked the school in the bottom ten. Also teachers in the school speculate that the students’ academic performance has declined. This situation signifies the importance of identifying the factors militating against students’ academic achievement in the school.

Objectives
To explore the factors militating against students’ academic performance in Samtse Higher Secondary School

Research Questions:
What are the factors militating against students’ academic performance in Samtse Higher Secondary School.
Subquestions
(i) Do demographic variables hinder academic performance of students of Samtse Higher Secondary School?
(ii) Is there a significant difference between the learning and study strategy of high achievers and low achievers?
(iii) Is there a significant difference in the locus of control (LOC) of high achiever students and low achiever students?
(iv) What according to teachers are the factors attributing to the decreasing academic performance in the school?

Variables
Independent variable:  1. Demographic variables
                                  2. Learning and study strategy
                                   3. Locus of control     
Dependent Variable: Academic performance


Literature Review
The literature review shall present 
1.The theoretical framework 
2. Causes of poor academic achievement

Research methodology
The study will involve all students and teachers of Samtse Higher Secondary School. Four sets of questionnaires developed based on literature review will be used. Three questionnaires will be administered to the students and one to the teachers. 
Questionnaire 1: To explore the relationships between the demographic variables and students’ academic achievement.
Questionnaire 2: To secure data on the learning and study skills of students, LASSI (Learning And Study Strategy Inventoryl) questionnaire will be administered to all students.
Questionnaire 3: The LOC (Locus of Control) questionnaire will be administered to students to determine if there is a significant difference between the LOC of low academic achievers and high achievers.  
Questionnaire 4: Teachers will be interviewed using semi-structured questionnaire.

The data obtained will be analyzed by using SPSS

Friday, August 15, 2014

Crossing The Swollen Sukreti River

There are over hundred students in our school who live in rented houses all by themselves. The school calls them self-catering students. These students are mostly from far flung places in Samtse. They were placed to Samtse HSS after completing their lower secondary education from their village school.

Coming to Samtse has not been easy for them. Most of these students do not have any relative or family in Samtse to stay with. They have to find their own accommodation. They rent single rooms and make their living with the little money their parents send every month.

One popular place where we find most self-catering students is Sukreti. The place is located on the slope of the west hill overlooking the school. By foot it takes about fifteen minutes to reach the place. What stands between the school and Sukreti is a wide gully where Sukreti river flows. In winter it dries up to become a stretch of dry sandy land but in summer the monsoon replenishes it and becomes one formidable river to cross.

The incessant rain over the past three days has swollen the river. The roaring sound of the river is getting louder by the day. Today 28 self-catering students from Sukreti couldn't make to school on time. They were stranded on the other side of the river. But they somehow crossed the river and made to school only in the third period. When I saw them they were all drenched in water. When I asked them about how they could cross the river, they said that they sought help from the elderly passersby. They said that the passersby carried them on their backs across the river. Some said that they carried each other on their backs. While some had to go a long way upstream looking for a shallow section of the river. Some of them lost their footwear in the river. One of them got her lunch box washed away. Some of them got their books drenched. Most of them looked terrified and were worried as to weather they would be able to make their way back home in the evening.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jigme, Tashi And A Sick Dog

The following story is based on a true incident as narrated by Jigme and Tashi.

1st August, morning SUPW, Samtse HSS, 2014. Jigme Wangchuk and Tashi Gyeltshen both of XF were returning to their work area after dumping paper rubbishes in the pit near boys' toilet. Normally Jigme and Tashi are two stone-hearted boys. But that morning their hearts melted when they stumbled upon a dog behind the chemistry lab that was at the brink of dying. What was killing it was a maggot-infected sore on its neck. Other friends had walked past it obliviously or intentionally.  

Jigme and Tashi went close to examine the dog. They noticed that the dog was in dire condition and was barely able to breathe. The wound on its neck looked serious with tissues and blood vessels all exposed. They declared it urgent and decided to take the dog to the nearby veterinary hospital. They hurriedly ran to get permission from their class teacher. After getting an affirmative response from their class teacher, they quickly looked for anything that could be used for carrying the dog. Tashi spotted a sack below the basketball court and quickly fetched it. As they lifted the dog they found that the dog was too unconscious to react to anything. Tashi held the sack open and Jigme lifted the dog by its legs and gingerly placed it in the sack. They set off holding the sack on either ends. As they passed the school gate they saw teachers' cars in the parking lot but they didn’t dare ask any teacher because they had the hunch that no teacher would like to have a nasty dog in their clean cars. So, they decided to go on foot. 

Few minutes down the road they came across two school drop-out friends walking on the other side of the road.

'Tashi, Jigme! What's in the sack?' they asked curiously.

‘A dog’ replied Jigme.

‘A dog!!!? Where are you taking it? Is it dead? Have you killed it?’ 

‘No he is sick’

The two boys came over crossing the road and peeked in the sack. 'Khai it's a stray menna? It’s infected. Let it free’

Tashi and Jigme knew that the boys were beginning to jeer at them so they closed the sack and continued walking. They could hear the two boys still laughing at them from a distance.

En route they checked on the dog every three minutes to make sure that it was breathing. After fifteen minutes, they were at the veterinary hospital. The door of the building was wide open. They walked in but there was nobody. They heard a faint voice from upstairs. ‘Tashi could you go check upstairs?’ suggested Jigme. Tashi promptly climbed the stairs and found an officer busy on the phone. Tashi waited until the officer hung up. 

‘Sir, we have brought a sick dog’ said Tashi.

‘A sick dog!!!?’ the officer sounded surprised as though it was uncommon to have a sick dog in a veterinary hospital.  

‘Show it to the vet downstairs.’

‘There’s no one downstairs, sir’

‘You have to wait. They’ll be back in few minutes’

Tashi didn’t say a word and submissively said ‘Las la’ and walked downstairs.

When he reached downstairs Jigme had taken out the dog on the floor and laid it under fan. They waited helplessly and worriedly for the vet to arrive. They didn’t bother about missing their classes because they felt that they had a more important thing to do at hand. After 20 minutes a car pulled over in the parking lot and a lady stepped out.

‘Hmmm. She must be the vet’ whispered Jigme at Tashi’s ear.

As the lady approached near she grimaced on seeing the dog. Tashi informed ‘Madam we have brought a sick dog’

The lady gave a fleeting glance at the dog as she walked towards her office and said “Ok. Wait. I’ll wash my hands’

Jigme and Tashi stood relieved as they saw the lady donning her lab coat and gloves.

‘Take it in’ the lady instructed.

They lifted the dog, took it in the examination room and placed it on the examination table. The cold steel table gave the dog a sharp stimulus that it woke the dog conscious. It slowly opened its eyes and closed again like heavy curtains.  

The vet handed Jigme and Tashi a pair of plastic gloves each. 'Put them on. I need one of you to hold the dog by its legs and one of you to hold its head' the vet instructed with a muffled voice through her mouth mask.

The treatments began. The vet pulled out many live maggots from the gaping wound. Every time the vet cleansed the wound the dog writhed in pain but it didn’t have any energy to make any sound. Jigme and Tashi held the dog strong and made sure it did not move out of the table. After fifteen minutes the vet gave an injection.

'Yaaa. We are done.' the vet declared. ‘Put it back in the sack’

Jigme and Tashi carefully put the dog in the sack.  The vet wrote a medical prescription and handed a spray. ‘Here, apply it on the wound three times a day’ she instructed.

With the treatments done, Jigme and Tashi’s heart became light. They envisaged the dog’s health improving day by day and hoped that it would one day be able to stand on its feet, join the canine pollution and lead a normal life.

They took the dog back to the school. When they reached the school it was already third period. They decided to keep the dog under the staircase of class eleven building. The dog was still unconscious. Jigme went to get a bottle of water. They slowly lifted the dog’s muzzle, opened its mouth and poured some water. The dog gulped down some of it. 

‘I think it’s hungry’ Tashi said.

‘I have my packed lunch in the class, but we’ll have to wait until lunch break’ Jigme said

Just then the bell rang for the fourth period. They made a comfortable bed with the sack for the dog and left for class. In the classroom they were all but thinking about the dog. They couldn’t keep their concentration with the lesson. Every now and then they looked at the clock to strike 12:45.

No sooner did the bell for lunch break ring than they went to check the dog. Jigme took his lunch box along. He opened it, dug a handful of rice and placed it near the dog’s nose. But the dog had no appetite and didn’t even sniff.  Its eyes were still closed. Jigme and Tashi sacrificed their lunch break to be with the dog. They could do nothing but stop other students who thronged around in eagerness from touching it.

They wished they did not have to attend the remaining two periods. But when the bell rang they had to once more leave the dog and go to class. After what seemed like two long periods, the bell finally rang. Other students went home while they quickly went out to check on the dog. This time around they found the dog awake lifting its neck and had eaten the rice that was kept near it. It heartened both Jigme and Tashi. They knew that the dog was beginning to regain its vitality. They gave some more rice and water. The dog ate them all. Jigme and Tashi had sea of hope that the dog would make to a normal life. 

When their watch struck 5:32 pm, they were reminded of the school rule that no student should be out of home after 6:00 pm. They decided to go home lest they landed in any trouble. Before they left, they gave a final look at the wound and sprayed the medicine over it. They walked home happy and content. 

The next morning Jigme and Tashi met at the school gate. They dropped their bags in the class and went to check the dog. They saw many students crowded around the dog. Jigme and Tashi pushed their way through. What they saw took them by surprise. The dog was motionless, cold and wasn’t breathing. They had lost one more ‘men’s best friend’.   
     
Heartbroken, Jigme and Tashi dug a hole below the football ground and buried the dog. During the morning pray Jigme and Tashi prayed for the dog’s soul to rest in peace.

 The dog was motionless, cold and wasn't breathing
Jigme Wangchuk
Tashi Gyeltshen

Friday, August 8, 2014

Girls Continue To Outperform Boys

Girls domination
Last year I made a very casual post about how girls outnumbered boys in the toppers list in my school in the annual exam. I thought it would just be a temporary trend and that some day boys would outnumber girls. But the number of girls topper is ever increasing. This year's mid term examination toppers list had 42 girl toppers and only 21 boy toppers. The number of girls is greater by twofold. This indicates the prevalence of academic gender gap in my school, something that the school should consider.

Researches carried out in other countries show that there are several factors affecting academic gender gap.
  • Motivation
  • Study skills
  • Time management
  • Attitude
  • Self esteem
  • School contentedness
  • Cultural factors
  • Parental education
  • Socioeconomic status of parents
  • And many more
But what could have caused the academic gap between boys and girls in my school? 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dirty Towns

Thimphu and Paro are considered metropolis of Bhutan. I am a person living in remote Bhutan and my initial thought about these two places was that they would be two very clean cities. Recently I and my family visited these two places. Surprisingly I found that they were but two dirty towns. The drains at the heart of the town were stinking. Septic tanks were overflowing. The drains around the centenary vegetable market were clogged and produced foul smell. The stairways to some buildings were filled with toilet stink. A manhole on the city's highway was kept open. Somewhere below Kelki HSS a construction site had left a septic tank open and the air around it was polluted. I nearly fainted holding my breath till I crossed the site. Roadsides were strewn with sanitary pads and kitchen waste. The two places got even worse when there was rain fall. 

I asked to myself: Is this the Thimphu and Paro that was presented to PM Modi? Is this what we present to the tourists? Is this the best we can do with the country's top two towns?


Looking at the people living in these two places one would not expect the two places to be so dirty because people are dressed in clean and fashionable dresses. They have maintained very good personal hygiene. But their personal hygiene has become so personal and selfish that it has not gone beyond keeping their own bodies clean. Everybody looks least bothered about cleaning the places around their houses.  

When I posted about this on facebook, one of my friends commented - 'So what do you think the municipality should do?'

I replied-

'Well! The onus is on the people living in these towns. Leaving the work to be done by the municipality or a govt. organization would be being too irresponsible. Urban dwellers should learn to clean their living places. We believe that they are better educated than rural folks. It would be too unfair to ask the municipality or a govt. agency to do the work. It would be like blaming a person for a wrongdoing done by another.'

PS: This post is based on the observations in downtown Thimphu and Paro. It may not be the case with the places at the outskirts.  

Friday, June 27, 2014

Group Evaluation

For fair assessment of answer scripts, teachers in many schools in the country are practicing group evaluation. It is evident from various facebook updates and calls from fellow teachers elsewhere in other schools. It's a good move for schools in Bhutan. Unlike single teacher evaluation, group evaluation gives no room for biased assessment. 

Science group
In my school teachers form groups in their respective subject department. To make assessment even fairer my school has given index numbers to all students. Writing index numbers instead of names facilitates fair assessment, in that it prevents teachers from the likelihood of awarding extra marks to their favorite students and low marks to those they don't like. We are more or less emulating BCSEA's way of doing assessment. 

Although long and tiring, there is fun in doing group evaluation. We get to eat variety of refreshments. Teachers take turns to serve refreshment to the group. Each day there is something new to eat and there is a competition about who would bring the best refreshment. It is also a time to talk about a range of issue from government's lopsided pay raise; to how it would affect village folks; to world cup; to how teachers' pay does not commensurate with their work; to soap opera; to fashion celebrities; to the rocketing price of commodities in the market; etc. Another good thing about group evaluation is that teachers can spend their summer break freely. Normally teachers do assessment during the break but group evaluation finishes everything before the break and leaves no outstanding work.   

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ajahn Manit Boonprasert: My Professional Inspiration

June 2011, Rangsit University, Thailand, I was listening to a lecturer's presentation in the class when an elderly couple walked in and took our attention. The lady introduced herself as Ajahn Mannit Boonprasert and the man as Ajahn Uthai Boonprasert. Ajahn in Thai means teacher. The lady  had a soft voice. She was  polite and wore a gentle smile. She mentioned that they were both lecturers with the university. The lady also mentioned that she was our course leader and that we would mostly be dealing with her for the rest of the course. We were left with over nine months to complete the course

Ajahn Manit Boonprasert started teaching  research methodology in education. Later she also became my thesis advisor. It was as a lecturer for research methodology and as my thesis adviser that I got the opportunity to work with her. As I started to interact and discuss with her both in the class and in her office over several issues regarding my thesis, I saw some of the finest qualities of a teacher in her. She was truly an inspiration for me.

To be continued..... 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

New Principal Brings Hope

Samtse Higher Secondary School has been without a principal for over a month. Not having a principal in the school was like a voyaging ship without a captain. We felt as though an important element was missing in the school. The entire fraternity of the school have been expecting for the new principal to arrive and take over the school as soon as possible. Fortunately today, to the joy and delight of everybody in the school, the new principal arrived and assumed office.

His first address to the students and teachers of the school today gave us renewed hopes. He said 'I am a strong believer of change!'. And definitely change is what the school needs. Samtse HSS over the past few years has not been able to see glory in any of its endeavors. It has not been able to take a progressive course in it's undertakings. The school's motto 'Striving For Excellence' remained a far-fetched dream. The outcomes of most of it's endeavors have not been as expected. It has not been one mostly sought after schools for students.

Picture: BCSEA, Pupil Perfromance Report
From among the host of issues faced by the school I will bring out two that's prominent and need to be addressed. Firstly, students' poor academic performance. The Pupil Performance Report, 2013 of Bhutan Council School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA) reported that out of 200 students in class 12 in the school, only 4 qualified for undergraduate studies and 27 for various RUB colleges. And out of 148 class ten students only 81 (43.55%) qualified for higher secondary education (Pupil Performance Report, 2013, BCSEA) owing to which the school has been has labeled as one of the low performing schools and ranked in the bottom ten. Although there has not been any formal complaint from anybody about the declining academic performance in the school, every Tom, Dick and Harry in the locality talks about it. Besides, a few years back an anonymous post on kuenselonline forum criticized the school for being a place of 'academic drought'. The school has some of the finest teachers, giving their best effort yet it has not been able to see light at the other end of the tunnel. There seem to be a problem somewhere. By and large, it indicates that the state of student academic performance of the school is really in a bad shape.

Secondly, students' discipline and conduct. Discipline is essential for education. There has not been effective education without discipline. Today teachers in the school perceive the prevalence of arrogant behavior, use of obscene language, eccentric dressing style and substance abuse among students in the school. And it is getting pervasive by the day. As far as substance abuse is concerned, it has been attributed to close proximity of the school to the border town of Chamurchi where chemical substances (drugs and other forms) and tobacco products are easily available. These issues have been seen as militating factors against students' academic growth.

Hence, this situation calls for serious reform in the school. We cannot afford to have these trends persisting. We got to address them sooner. And we are hoping that the new principal will see to it and bring about positive changes with his initiatives. Fortunately, in his first address to the students and teachers, he stated that he wants to take the school to the top ten in the rankings. That gave us a sea of hope. Those words truly made us happy. We hope that the new principal will bring in some fresh perspectives and place innovative and viable ideas and take the school to a new height. Of course leadership alone cannot bring about the changes and the onus also lies equally on other stakeholders, leadership is still the most important and the foremost factor in taking the lead role so that others can follow suit.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Content Overloaded Education

Teacher fronted teaching is the dominant teaching method in Bhutan. Walk into any few classes, you would invariably find teachers taking the center stage while students would simply be listening to the teachers explanation of subject matter and copying what teachers write on chalk board. This trend ails the Bhutanese education system. In teacher-fronted teaching, students do not get to learn by interaction. They do not get chance to share ideas. They don't become responsible for their own learning. They depend too much on teachers to decide what and how to learn. They are left with too little to think and they don't become creative. Learning doesn't become an interesting and enjoyable experience.

Many reasons could be attributed to the prevalence of such practice. But a major reason could be the content overloaded curriculum. There are too many content matters to be delivered within an academic year. The heavy content matters developed by curriculum developers and mandating teachers to complete the syllabus in stipulated time-frame has proven to be disadvantages to the Bhutanese education system. It has resulted in pressure on teachers to move with undue pace through material and encouraging a 'tick list' approach to teaching. It has led to less flexibility and creativity and to a more slavish and sometimes, frantic gallop through the curriculum. Teaching and learning depends too much on textbooks. It doesn't give room for teachers to practice innovative and interactive teaching techniques. 

Besides, overloaded curriculum has lead to considering other important learning activities less important. Teachers are forced to neglect minor subjects such as physical education, living skills, character education and moral education in order to focus more on examination subjects. Because of this, education in schools has become exam oriented learning. It forces schools to rush through subject and drill pupils to pass exams.

Moreover, content overload has led people misconstrue the meaning and purpose of education. Due to overemphasis laid on teaching subjects, most people think learning subjects as the centerpiece of education. People feel that education is all about remembering the subject content or being able to write good answers to questions in exams. And students who score good marks are regarded as educated. That is a narrow view about education. Education is more than that.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Maiden School Magazine for Samtse HSS

Samtse Higher Secondary School's bid to produce a publication started with the launch of a bi-annual newsletter in 2006 by former Principal Mr. Kinga Drakpa. The first two issues appeared successfully. However, due to some reasons, it ceased to find its successive issues. Since then, no attempt has been made to produce a new publication for the school.


However, 2013 academic year put an end to that long gap. The school planned a magazine. It was decided to make it annual publication. An editorial team was identified from among teachers. And the works began. It took a year to give it shape. The magazine finally came out and was formally launched on February 2014. 

My words of acknowledgement go to the following people who gave their hands in bringing out the issue. Foremost, I would like to thank the Principal Mr. Namgay for agreeing on the idea of producing the magazine. Secondly, the editorial team for working on the content and taking care of the language mechanics. Ms.Yonten Dema for typing the articles. The Ads team for touring around and collecting advertisements. Mr. Jigme Dorji the person who took up the most challenging task of working on the design and layout of the magazine. It is evident from the magazine that he has meticulously taken care of every small thing in the magazine. Last but not least, students' parents for their financial assistance. And my congratulations are to the students whose articles featured in the issue.

The content of the magazine is a mix of creative writing and report writing mostly from students and few from teachers. The magazine has helped students foster their writing skills. And for those students wishing to hone their skills in writing, the articles in the magazine can be looked at as models.

Since the magazine is an annual production, I would like to make the following comments for bringing out even better issue next year. And I hope the team who worked on it will not mind but take positively.

The Title: The magazine does not have an attractive title. The team may think of a suitable title. Every book in the world has a title. The magazine should also have one, lest it looks incomplete. The current issue has just the name of the school on the cover. And barely noticeable is a phrase 'window to' just above the name of the school. If 'Window to Samtse Higher Secondary School' is meant to be the title of the magazine, I suggest the team to make it more conspicuous and prominent. Give it a better font, size and location on the cover.

Derogatory Picture Captions: I will not pin point some awkward picture captions used but I suggest the team to rethink over some of them. 

Background Pictures: Many articles have the words run over the background pictures. Since the content is done in black and white, the dark pictures have made the words barely visible. I had to strain my eyes to figure out the words. I suggest the team to use lighter background pictures or locate the pictures away from the words.   

Reader Friendly Font: I would suggest a more legible font than the italicized typeface used. Italicized fonts are slanted, cursive and are difficult to read. The kind of font used effects readership. No matter how good an article, if the font does not appeal to readers we lose readership. So, I would suggest a straighter and a common font throughout.

I must reiterate that the above comments are not meant to overshadow the effort that has gone into making the magazine. But the only reason is to bring out even better issue next year. Cheers!  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Moment With Rinchen Doya

Like in other Dzongkhags, Samtse Dzonkhga celebrated His Majesty's Birthday in high spirits. The day had Honorable Dasho Dzongda as the chief guest. Hundreds of students from various school gathered to pay tribute to  His Majesty. 

A highlight of the day was an award ceremony to two youths for their remarkable achievements.  
1. Mr. Mani Kumar Chhetri, a tenth grader from Pejorlinng Higer Secondary school who secured third in the all Bhutan BCSE examinations. 2. Mr. Rinchen Doya, the winner of the Talent Hunt 2012-2013. No sooner did they receive the awards than I ran to catch a moment with them. But I could only meet Rinchen Doya. Mani Kumar was no where to be found. I congratulated Rinchen. I asked him many questions but he was shy and timid and couldn't hear a word. I was so happy to meet this humble singing icon that I couldn't help from reaching my wallet. I gave him a little amount. Rinchen looked shy as ever to accept it. So, I shoved it into his pocket. Just as I was beginning to enjoy being with Rinchen, the MC announced Rinchen to report to the announcement center to enthrall the crowd with his ever melodious voice. He left saying 'Kadrin Chela' 'Ya ya Pecha leg shom bay lhab mey' I said in that fleeting moment.         



video
(Mobile upload, sorry for the bad video)

In the meantime I was looking for Mani Kumar. But he still wasn't to be found anywhere. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Liebster Blog Award


A fellow teacher and a friend Dumcho Wangdi (@ Dumcho's Notebook) has graciously nominated me for Liebster Award. It is an honor to be nominated. It's a wonderful feeling and gives me so much motivation. At the same time I am both humbled and truly grateful. Though my blog is relatively unknown someone thinks it might be worth reading. Thank you so much Dumcho Wangdi.

Let me say a few words about Damcho Wangdi.  Damcho is an active blogger. His passion for blogging comes from his passion for writing. This is evident from his profile description which says "A teacher who likes writing, a friend who likes expanding social circles, a boy who admires working on his dreams..." His posts are a mix of poems, opinions, experience, anecdotes, etc, all of which are very interesting. He is articulate and creative. There is every reason why people should visit his blog. I am glad that his joining the blogging community increases the number of teacher bloggers. Currently he is pursuing masters degree in Mahidol University, Thailand. I wish him all the best with blogging and his course.

He has asked me to answer the following three questions.

a) Write three things that you love being a blogger.
1. Although few and mostly ramblings, I love the satisfaction that each published post gives me.
2. I love the feeling of joy when someone comments on my posts.
3, On the thought of being able to put my thoughts into words.

b) Share 2 reasons why readers should read your posts
I don't know if there is anything worthy in mt blog to attract readers.
1. Readers should read my posts to see how an amateur is faring
2. Readers should read my posts to see if  'The Novice Pen' is heading right.
No big reasons.

c) Tell 1 thing that you always want to add into your blog.
I want to add a post on 'If our education system was....'

Initially I had little knowledge on Liebster award. But after reading about it on Google I knew that it is a great way to introduce a relatively unknown blog to the blogging community. It also helps to increase readership. I also knew that the nomination for the award must be continued from one to another like a chain. So, I nominate the following bloggers:













It is also customary that nominees answer a set of 11 questions. Here are the questions for my nominees:

1. Why did you start blogging?
2.Write one reason why you like teaching profession.
3. Tell one thing that you wish to change in the Bhutanese education system?
4. How do you relate the benefits of blogging to teaching?
5. Do you encourage your students to blog?
6. Your favorite movie.
7. Where is your favorite place in Bhutan?
8. Name one thing you cannot live without.
9. Describe yourself in one word.
10. Your favorite sport.  
11. Ngaja or Suja?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

School Campus Tour For My Daughter

Reopening day for schools is just around the corner. My second daughter has won admission to school. But I am worried that she may not like to go to school because most children fear school on the first day. And if she fears school on the first day she may develop negative attitude towards school which could hamper her interest in learning. I have already written about children's fear for school on the first day of school in my earlier post Children fear school on teh first day of school. And I have stated that one of the reasons why students fear school is because they don't know the school. I have also suggested that one of the ways to reduce fear is by taking children to the school campus and making them familiar with the school campus.

So, I decided to take my daughter for a school campus tour today and it was also her astrological good day. My wife dressed her in the school uniform, took her to the alter to pray for blessings from the God of Wisdom. Then we were all ready. I told her that we would be going to explore her beautiful school. She was quite excited. I hope this experience will help her like her school.

Off we go.
Bye Azhim and Mom
She is at the school gate
She looks through 
She heads for a classroom
But she finds it locked
She peeps through a window and observes the classroom 
"Now what, Apa?"

Next I took her to the play field, water tap, toilet, Principal's office. But my camera battery was exhausted and I couldn't take shots of her going around to these places. She excitedly ran to see these places and I had to run after her. In between I took a chance to ask her "How do you like your school?" She didn't pay heed to my question. She rather kept running on the assembly ground. 

As we head home I asked her again "How do you like your school?"

"I like it Apa"  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Teacher Collegiality and Collaboration:

There is an increasing need to improve the quality of education in Bhutan. Research consistently highlights the quality of teachers as a key determinant of quality of education (Ferguson & Ladd 1996; Wenglinsky 2000; Darling-Hammond 2000, Hattie, 2009; Sanders & Rivers, 1996).

The need to improve the quality of education confronts teachers with ever more and various demands. Teachers need to make teaching and learning process more dynamic. The traditional teacher fronted teaching, becomes no longer relevant. They need to practice innovative teaching techniques. New knowledge about teaching and learning keeps emerging. Teachers need to keep abreast of the new knowledge base and use it to continually refine their conceptual and pedagogical skills (Owen, 2005). These are expected to culminate in increasing teacher effectiveness and raise student learning outcomes.

This situation signifies the importance of continuous teacher professional development (PD). Research affirms that engaging teachers in continuous professional learning (CPD) as the most successful way to improve teacher effectiveness (Greenwald, Hedges & Laine 1995; Guskey & Huberman 1995; Elmore & Burney 1997; Hawley & Valli 1999; Elmore 2002). Professional learning supports teachers to develop their understanding and implementation of effective practice, and ultimately lead to improvement in student learning outcomes.


Most teachers in Bhutan look for out of school PD programs organized by higher authorities and other relevant organizations to improve their professional skills. But the paucity of out of school PD programs makes it unavailable to teachers. Also the sheer weight of its number (teachers make up 35% of the country’s total civil servants) makes it difficult for teachers to avail PD program opportunities.

While out-of-school PD programs are scant, teacher collegiality, a school-based PD activity can be an effective PD avenue for teacher. In fact, Owen (2005) claimed that it is even more effective than teachers attending one-off out-of-school PD programs. 
 A high level of collegiality among staff members is associated with successful and effective schools (Fullan & Hargreaves, 1991; Gossen & Anderson, 1995; Telford, 1996).

A significant body of research literature also suggests teacher collegiality and collaboration as one of the effective means of professional development. There is a widespread acceptance of teacher collegiality as an essential component of any effort aimed at improving teaching. Teacher collegiality refers to cooperative relationships among colleagues; ‘sharing responsibility in a group endeavor’ and ‘cooperative interaction among colleagues’ (Shah, 2011). Jarzabkowski (2002) and Little (1999) defines collegiality as the professional relationships whereby teachers openly and continually investigate and critique school/classroom practice with a view to improvement.

It is opposed to the culture of teachers working in isolation. Fulton (2006) argued that teacher isolation is the enemy of a healthy school culture. Teachers working in isolation see and understand little of what their colleagues do and are shielded not only from criticism, but also from support and praise (PSEA, 2011). Isolation not only cuts teachers off from crucial emotional and professional support from colleagues, it creates a splintered experience for students: five different teachers can mean five different sets of expectations and five different approaches to teaching and discipline. At many schools, teachers resemble independent contractors more than members of a faculty with a common mission (Fulton, 2006). But when teachers work in collegial atmosphere and supportive communities, they receive support, learn from each other, and gain confidence to try new things ( ).

In this era, more than ever before, teachers need to do their work differently. It is important for teachers to change the way they work to improve their professional skills. The traditional image of school teachers working independently and all alone in their classroom with closed doors is no longer relevant (Fullan & Hargreaves, 1991; Gossen & Anderson, 1995; Telford, 1996).

A large number of researches also demonstrate a positive correlation between teacher collegiality and student academic achievement (For example McClure, 2008). Teachers working in collegial and collaborative work environments have more positive attitudes and outlook towards their profession (PSEA, 2011). It has also helped in teacher retention. In many countries like US where there is a high rate of turnover, collegial supports and quality relationships among staff has influenced teachers to choose to remain in teaching. Teachers working in collegial and collaborative working environment have also been found to be highly motivated and have a positive outlook on their profession.


To be continued............