On this auspicious date of the 10th day of the 10th month in the Bhutanese calendar, corresponding to 9th December 2016, we celebrate the tenth year of His Majesty The King’s glorious reign. This decade of caring reign has been a period of continued peace, prosperity and a most hallowed sense of commitment to nation building. All of it has occurred in the midst of momentous change.
His Majesty’s vision, wisdom, compassion and benevolence has steered Bhutan to pursue the national goal of Gross National Happiness (GNH) with a greater clarity of direction, deeper sense of purpose and stronger bond of national self-confidence. Words fail to sufficiently describe the innumerable ways of His Majesty’s profound and powerful influence in nurturing the national consciousness, and in inspiring the Bhutanese society to be compassionate, responsible and sensible global citizens. This is the King who endears, who empowers and who enables His people to be and do their best. This is the King who cooks for students in the school kitchen, wades unhesitatingly into the river to reach out to the flood victims, mourns with bereaved families, spends hundreds of hours signing certificates to encourage civil servants, teachers and students, treks into the highest glacial mountains to meet His people, sleeping in the home of an impoverished family, patiently hearing out every single appeal. All of these actions reflect profound selflessness, sacrifice and simplicity.
Education is easily the closest to His Majesty’s heart. His Majesty has said, “As I serve my country, I have a number of priorities. Number one on my list is education. Education is empowering – it’s a social equalizer and it facilitates self-discovery, which leads to realizing ones full potential”.
The vision of education that emanates from the Golden Throne is powerful. The ideas are compelling. The royal initiatives are profound. In His visits to many parts of the country, His Majesty always visits schools, talks to children and teachers, listens to their aspirations and concerns, and painstakingly explains the importance of education in building the future of Bhutan. There is not a single student or teacher who is not touched or inspired by His Majesty’s words and actions.
In a school, His Majesty commands that the students must learn the traditional etiquette of eating from ‘Phorb and Tora’. In the same breath His Majesty commands that the students should learn to eat using fork, knife and spoon. His Majesty’s vision has been that our education system must be anchored to our rich heritage of culture, tradition and Bhutanese values and yet be progressive in its pursuit of science and technology– being nationally rooted but globally oriented, so that our students will graduate to be proud Bhutanese and be able to find for herself a space anywhere in the world.
The many Royal awards and scholarship schemes set up for youth to recognize volunteerism, outstanding achievements and special merits have reinforced the values of service, responsibility, discipline, selflessness and the pursuit of excellence. His Majesty’s consistent emphasis on the need to pursue “higher standards”; to strive for “excellence”; to know that “good is not good enough” have deeply influenced personal and institutional values, character and aspiration. The Gyalpoi Tozay initiative has enabled thousands of students from disadvantaged families to pursue education and find for themselves a purposeful living in the society.
His Majesty’s profound understanding of the inevitable process of change and the need for intelligent adaptation while being anchored to our history, culture and legacy has had deep and powerful influence on Bhutan’s educational thinking and reform initiatives in the past decade. Change initiatives such as educational policy shifts, school restructuring, curriculum reforms, pedagogical changes, are all, in form and format, rising up to the royal vision, royal ideas and royal challenge.
His Majesty’ vision of “building intelligent institutions” has helped shape the education landscape in Bhutan in the past decade. The Royal Academy at Paro shall stand as a beacon for excellence in education. The government’s central schools reform is an initiative towards this royal vision of building intelligent institutions where knowledge not only propagates but also is created. His Majesty said “We can dream of a nation of environmental conservation, GNH, a strong economy, a vibrant democracy and yet none are possible or sustainable if we have not already toiled and sweated in the building of a strong education system”.
The past ten years, the Ministry of Education has ‘toiled’ in bettering our education system. Today a comprehensive reform drive has been launched to ensure the national vision is contained ‘in the pages of the books that our children hold, in the words of the teachers as they lead the classroom and in the education policies of the government’. Reflected in the three pillars of ‘school, curriculum and teachers’, the reform initiatives aim at creating schools as a physical, social and emotional space where learning is enabled for full realization of every child’s potential; in creating curriculum that is engaging, enjoyable and enlightening both to the brain and the mind; in nurturing teachers who are committed and competent and who would have what needs to be imparted, because as His Majesty has said, ‘you cannot give what you do not have’.
In the midst of many inspirations, encouragements and support that education received from His Majesty, the education family is filled with the courage and confidence to build an education system that is comparable to the finest in the world. As His Majesty reminds us often that the question is not whether or not we have the ability to do it, the question is whether or not we have the will to do it. We have the advantage of being a small nation. We can be nimble, efficient and fast. Our Education system can be nurtured to be the finest in the world. We have the royal vision. We have committed teachers. We have a caring society.
The vision of Education shines from the golden throne, the path towards the greater vision is illuminated, and the journey is compelling. We, in the education family have embarked on the journey. It is a journey that requires sacrifice, simplicity and selflessness. But it is a journey that will leave a legacy of a better future, a greater country and a happier society. We owe this journey to our beloved king, our children and our country.
Contributed by Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk
Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk is the Education Minister of Bhutan