Bhutan’s education is confronted by the geographical feature of the country and scattered settlements as well as lack of facilities in the school. Further, long hours walking distance to school and the swollen streams during the monsoon make consistent attendance in school difficult. So, most of the parents are discouraged to enroll their children in the school. Nevertheless, education is free in Bhutan but parents who are from impoverished background try to withdraw their children from school. Moreover, some students drop out when they reach middle secondary school to help their parents.
However, education is a basic right and a pre-requisite for achieving the nation’s social, cultural, and economic goals. So, (Ministry of Education, 2009) the overall goal is to have an efficient, high-performing and a successful education system that prepares students, its future citizens, to thrive in a competitive and fast-homogenizing world with knowledge, intellectual competence, and character. So, the ministry of education of Bhutan has recently introduced nationwide program 21st-century transformative pedagogy infused in education system whereby the school has to implement in the real classroom situation according to the need of the future citizen. But the fact is teacher being overloaded with other responsibilities apart from teaching makes it challenging to cope up. Moreover, crowded classroom and lack of modern facilities are the main challenges faced in my country.
(Education Writers Association, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, 2014) reflected that Professional learning communities tend to serve to two broad purposes: improving the skills and knowledge of educators through collaborative study, expertise exchange, and professional dialogue, and improving the educational aspirations, achievement, and attainment of students through stronger leadership and teaching.
Professional Learning Community (PLC) has been introduced recently in the education system of Bhutan. PLC Programmes are carried out in three different levels; school level, cluster level and national level in Bhutan which consist of National Based In-service Program(NBIP), Cluster-Based In-service Program(CBIP) and Dzongkhag -Bases In-service Program(DBIP) and School-Based In-service programme (SBIP) where they share their knowledge with the other teachers. These programmes are conducted through workshops, training, and seminars where teachers get the opportunity to enhance their professional’s skills. Education Minister of Bhutan pointed out (Education, n.d.; Education, n.d.) If there is a silver bullet to raise the quality of education, it is teacher development. Competent and committed teachers are the most important influence on the student achievement. Moreover, he stated, if we want great citizen, we must first make great teachers.
Teacher Professional Support Division was inaugurated on 19th August 2016 by the Hon’ble le Education Minister of Bhutan.
Two broad mandates are:
Professional development for teaching professionals in the country
The objectives are:
1. To ensure that teachers possess the required knowledge, skills, and aptitude
2. To promote continuous learning of teaching professionals
3. To ensure access and equity to professional development for all teaching professionals
4. To ensure quality assurance of INSET/PD programmes in the country
In my school Teachers are divided into the different department according to the subject we teach (Language Department, Mathematics/IT Department, Humanities Department and Science Department) which is headed by Head of Department (HOD). Every week each department have meetings about the subjected related issues. And all the department head (HOD) have met with Academic Head on every Saturday and raise the issue brought from the department meetings. In Bhutan teacher should get 80 hours of Professional Development Programme a year. For that school conduct PD programme every Saturday about 3 hours.
(Huffman, 2011)Every day our students, teachers, and administrators face fear, mistrust, apathy, and failure in schools. These threats continue to place our students and educators at risk. Clearly, we must find ways to work and learn together to mitigate these threats. Now PLC is being properly infused in education in Bhutan and to introduce PLC in education is very essential whereby we aim towards shared information in school to bring improvement in learning.
I have worked in two different schools, one was Middle secondary school and the other one was central school. Both schools have level ranging from pre-primary till class 10. I want to assess Professional Learning Community Dimension of my former Central School where I have been working for five years.
Supportive and shared leader: The school change and educational leadership literature clearly recognize the role and influence of the campus administrator (principal, and sometimes assistant principal) on whether the change will occur in the school. It seems clear that transforming a school organization into a learning community can be done only with the sanction of the leaders and the active nurturing of the entire staff’s development as a community (American Institute of Research, SEDL, 1997). In my school in the beginning of the year before starting of the academic session, Principal, Vice Principal and teachers get together and start to disseminate the roles and responsibilities of different coordinators such as Academic Head, Non-Academic, Exam controller, Club coordinator, literary in charge, House Masters, Class Teachers, Disaster coordinator, Games and sports in charge, Health in charges and HODs are appointed. Furthermore, those above-mentioned roles are divided among Academic and non- academic heads. And the Principal is the overall chairperson. Therefore, I think my school is in the institutionalization stage of this dimension.
Shared vision and values: Shared vision is a common consensus of good ideas, it is an idea or a solution which is important to an organization or an individual. It encourages staffs to involve in the process of developing a shared vision which can help in decision making in relation to teaching-learning in the school (Hord ; Hord, 1997). likewise, before the academic session starts, all the teaching staff with the principal conduct meeting and set target for every activity of the year in line with the vision of the school. We conduct teacher parents meeting and School Management Board meeting for familiarization on our school mission and vision to student and staff for the betterment of the school. Consequently, my school is in the implementation stage of this dimension.
Collective Learning Application: We conduct School Base In-service Programme (SBIP) by the teachers who have attended workshop or seminar at the national or cluster level. Moreover, we conduct department meeting chair by HOD about 1hour every week. We do peer observation, paper moderation and group evaluation to enhance learning and to meet the need of the leaners of today. So, I think my school is in the implementation stage of this dimension.
Shared and personal practice: One goal of reform is to provide appropriate learning environments for students. Teachers, too, need “an environment that values and supports hard work, the acceptance of challenging tasks, risk-taking, and the promotion of growth” (Midgley ; Wood, 1993, p. 252). Sharing their personal practice contributes to creating such a setting. So, in my school we have HODs for different departments and teachers are divided according to the subject they teach. We have department meeting every week where we share what went right and what must be done to improve teaching and so on. HOD also observe the teaching classes and give feedback to the teachers. After looking at the activities I think my school is in the implementation stage of this dimension.
Supportive condition: Several kinds of factors determine when, where, and how the staff can regularly come together as a unit to do the learning, decision making, problem-solving, and creative work that characterize a professional learning community. For learning communities to function productively, the physical or structural conditions and the human qualities and capacities of the people involved must be optimal (Boyd, 1992; Louis ; Kruse, 1995). Likewise, my school has conducive learning environment with new infrastructures and head of the school renders their support to the teachers. Within the teachers, we try to come together and help each other to solve the problems. So, I think my school is in the implementation stage of this dimension.
My school is guided by school policy which provides a framework that ensures consistent principles that are applied to practice in the school to have effective functioning of the school in accordance with ministry of education(MOE) policy. The school-level policy is reviewed in the meeting chaired by the principal and vice principal (Non- academic head) and attended by all the staff. The guided policies are bound to be changed after the discussion looking into the pros and cons of the issue encountered. The school policy is focused on the non-academic activities and academic learning which is headed by the non-academic head and academic head. Furthermore, the functioning of all the different activities such as co-curricular activities (Games and sports, Cultural, Agriculture, Literacy, Examination, clubs, and others) are coordinated by the appointed concerned in charges.
Moreover, the school has School Management Board (SMB) which is an advisory body to ensure smooth functioning of the school and does not interfere in the daily administration of the school affairs. SMB members are Principal, Non-Academic Head, Academic Head, Vice Principal, one representative from the local community and head of local government. Then we have School Management Team (SMT) which performs the decision taken by SMB (inconsistency with the Delivery and Performance Agreement). As a member, we have Principal, Vice- Principal, Academic Head, Non-Academic Head and one senior Teacher. We have Student Governing Board who carry out supporting functions to manage the school by taking up roles such as certain decision making in addition to its role as a bridge between the general student body and the school management. The member of the board is school captains and the other captains of the school.
At the beginning of the year, Subjects are distributed according to the subject field and divide teachers into different departments and have Department meeting chair by (head of Department (HOD)about planning, yearly, weekly and daily plans. And, about the student assessment, Summative Assessment, and Formative Assessment according to the criteria. Every week we have department meeting where we share the lessons and what are the ways to improve learner. How to go with the low achievers. HOD and principals come for classroom observation where they give feedback on the lesson we taught.
To enhance ones professional, teachers are sent to attend various workshops, seminars, and training according to the subject and on every Saturday, we have Professional Development(PD) programme in school facilitated by the teacher who went for a seminar, training, and workshop. Other than teaching, teacher shoulders different responsibilities like housemasters, Class teachers, Disaster coordinators, Health in charge, Cultural in charge, games, and sports in charge, a club in charge, literary coordinator and
(MacBeath, 2012) pointed out that “Teaching is a profession that lies at the heart of both the learning of children and young people and their social, cultural and economic development. It is crucial to transmitting and implanting social values, such as democracy equality, tolerance cultural understanding, and respect for each person’s fundamental freedoms.” Moreover, it is complex and demanding work that needs extremely specialized skills and knowledge to impact signi?cantly on student learning. 15 years back, teaching profession for me was not a choice but it was by chance and I had no option other than to join. Before going to National Institute of Education, I went as an apprentice teacher in a remote place for a year with fresh mind and energy but without any idea of school teaching. I was influenced by the manager of the school as (Huffman J., 2011) states that administrators view themselves as facilitators of learning and help with teaching to collectively meet the needs of the student. As a principal, he was positive, enthusiastic, had his hand in the day to day activities of the school, and listen to what his colleagues view. Moreover, he was available to teachers, staff members, parents, student, and community members. So, that inspired me to take a step towards my professional development.
Furthermore, I was influenced by team spirit where teachers work in collaborative planning teams under different department head to examine critically and discuss learning expectations for students. Moreover, they discuss the issues related to the teaching and try to solve within the department. Head of the Department (HOD) observe the lesson in the class and give feedback on it. Which made me confident in teaching with all the components and strategies of teaching.
Finally, I would say that being a teacher is very challenging, but we get unbelievable joy in seeing the difference we make in students and how they are being molded into a good citizen as (Edutopia, 2008) pointed out “Great teachers help create great students”. Moreover, we become more interested in a subject we taught and learn about ourselves under the guidance of good leadership and cooperative team.
I enjoyed going through your post and found that we have similar challenges in education but in a different context. Bhutan’s education is confronted by the geographical feature of the country and scattered settlements as well as lack of facilities in the school. Further, long hours walking distance to school and the swollen streams during the monsoon make consistent attendance in school difficult. So, most of the parents are discouraged to enroll their children in the school. Nevertheless, education is free in Bhutan but parents who are from impoverished background try to withdraw their children from school. Moreover, some students drop out when they reach middle secondary school to help their parents.
The curriculum where borrowed from different countries and recently Ministry of education of Bhutan has introduced 21st-century transformative pedagogy infused in an education system. As a matter of fact, the student has very difficult to cope up with the text as it is all about the outside countries. Even teachers have a tough time explaining to them. Moreover, teachers are overloaded with different responsibilities other than teaching (club in charge, housemasters, Health in charge, class teachers, disaster coordinator, cultural in charge, games, and sports in charge, scoutmaster and so on.). Furthermore, we have crowded classroom and lack of modern facilities are the main challenges faced in my country.