Teaching in Bhutan
EDUCATION IN BHUTAN
Prior to the 1950s, education in Bhutan was mainly monastic. Under the second king, His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck, Bhutan opened its first secular schools, with both the curriculum and the medium of instruction (Hindi) borrowed from India. But it was in the 1960s, under the third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, that Bhutan began to build its education system in earnest. Realizing that the small, isolated country needed to be able to communicate with the rest of the world, the third king made English the language of instruction. This laid the foundations for the network of primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions spread across Bhutan today.
At first, schools in Bhutan were few and rudimentary, and could only offer primary education. With few teachers of its own, Bhutan had to recruit teachers, mainly from neighboring India. Impressed by the quality of education in highly acclaimed missionary schools in Darjeeling, India, the Bhutan Government asked a Canadian Jesuit, Fr. William Mackey, to leave his school there and help set up a high school system in Bhutan.
Today, the education system includes formal, non-formal, and monastic schools. Enrolment in the formal system begins at age six. The government provides free education to all students till Grade 10 and scholarships to students who meet the requirements for higher and professional studies.
According to the General Statistics 2008 produced by the Ministry of Education, there are 552 formal schools and institutions, 391 monastic schools and 747 non- formal education centres in Bhutan. In the formal schools, girls make up 49.5% enrolment, although it is as high as 52% in urban areas and a few districts. Approximately 23% of primary students, 33% of middle school students, and 60% of higher secondary students enjoy free boarding facilities.
CONTRACTS & COMPENSATION
All BCF teachers are employed by the Royal Government of Bhutan as Royal Civil Servants and are paid a salary of 25,000 Ngultrum per month (approximately $450 Canadian). This salary is similar to what is paid to local Bhutanese teachers.
As employees of the Royal Government of Bhutan, BCF teachers commit to completing a one-year teaching contract (January – December). This contract is renewable up to five years provided you remain in good standing with the Ministry of Education and are invited to renew your contract.
Teachers are strongly encouraged to uphold their agreement with the Ministry. Teachers who leave before the contract term ends must refund three months of salary to the Ministry AND repay the cost of orientation to BCF. In cases where termination of contract is due to health issues or the death of an immediate family member teachers are exempt from these conditions.
PREPARATION & ORIENTATION
Prior to departure orientation documents, including packing lists and detailed information on teaching in Bhutan, will be provided by the BCF Toronto office. Additional pre-departure preparation will take place though an extensive webinar series, run by BCF Toronto with support from BCF alumni teachers.
Upon arrival in Bhutan teachers will attend a two-week session in the capital city of Thimphu. Orientation is an opportunity for teachers to get to know one another, as well as get acquainted with BCF Thimphu staff. Orientation includes sessions on curriculum, language training and cultural lessons.
All hotel accommodation and transportation during orientation is paid for and arranged by BCF.
IN THE CLASSROOM
BCF teachers carry a full course load and typically teach 25 periods per week. Most classes have between 35 – 40 students and meet for 40-45 minutes each day.
English is the language of instruction in Bhutanese public schools; however, especially in remote areas, students may have a low level of English comprehension and written and spoken skills. As a result, it is beneficial for BCF teachers to have some ESL training or experience working with second language learners.
Public schools in Bhutan follow a national curriculum that leads up to board examinations in grades 8, 10 and 12. Some of the curriculum was developed with the help of Canadian consultants and past BCF teachers have found that it instills a high standard and is, in some cases, similar to curriculum they have worked with in the past. Curriculum training is part of the teacher orientation in Thimphu. For more information on the Bhutanese curriculum, please visit the Department of Curriculum Research Development website at www.curriculum.bt.
Outside of the classroom BCF teachers are expected to lead extracurricular activities, such as coaching a sports team or overseeing club activities.
TYPICAL SCHOOL DAY
A typical school day will vary from location to location. Teachers placed at boarding schools will often have additional duties.
At all schools the day begins with morning assembly. Seven to eight classes follow with a break for lunch.
In a boarding school the evening consists of evening prayer (Buddhist prayer) and is followed by sports and club time as well as evening study.
The school week runs Monday to Friday with a half day on Saturday, which is often reserved for club activities and special events.