Monday, November 21, 2016

Ours is an autonomous agency: A Bhutanese Saying!

I made a phone call to an official in BCSEA, formerly BBE. (Bhutan Council for Secondary Examinations and Assessment) “Hello, I am Lobsang Nima and I am calling from LLSS, Thimphu. I want to inquire about how evaluators in English are selected for evaluation in the English subject. I have been teaching English for the last ten years and I haven’t been to an evaluation camp even once. Can you tell me what criteria must I meet for being eligible for such camp?” Quick came the reply,

“Sir we select teachers based on the subjects they teach (Never mentioned the criteria) especially those teachers who teach classes X and XII, indicating teachers from Lower Secondary schools and Primary schools aren’t eligible. Although, I am not saying teachers from LSS and PS aren’t capable and competent but if I do so. I will have to listen to a lot of criticisms from those who are teaching at the secondary level.” I thanked the person, conversation ended.

For information, BCSEA provides quotas to all schools for invigilation duties during the board exams and for Management works as I have heard are now given to the support staff to save on cost-TA/DA. A legitimate reason! In primary schools classes III and VI papers are evaluated in the school.

Google images
The Raison de tre for this particular update is, just for the fear of criticisms do you make phone calls to English teachers of secondary schools for evaluating English papers. This might surely be the case with other subjects, I don’t know. Perhaps, Bhutan might be the only country which takes ‘criticisms’ as all devil and negative. If secondary teachers teaching X and XII’s are eligible, how many of them do we have in Bhutan? All are teachers of MSS and HSS called for the evaluation? If not, how does the rest of the country know about what is happening during the winters in the hallowed walls and classrooms of CST, Rinchending? The question here is not about how many are called but how are they called? This is giving me a feeling that until now, only the near and known ones of the subject heads have been called. If this is so, I am surely worried about the credibility of the assessment done.


Perhaps, it’s time BCSEA floats this criteria like they float quotas for invigilation duties to the respective Dzongkhags and Thromdes for evaluators in secondary schools-no pun intended. When the rest of the country is working with accountability and transparency, one cannot defend saying, ours is an autonomous agency. This has become a clichéd saying-“Auntonomous bay ne dhi ghi, lakha Du.” “How lakha is in your hands!” BCSEA can set criteria for evaluation camp in different subjects and keep it open for teachers. This ‘Lakha Du’ of yours will take care of itself-my humble opinion. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

My Double Trouble- Vol. II( I never knew Love)

I was reading through an e-book in a borrowed Kindle Paper White and my thoughts suddenly went to my two sleeping daughters’ right beside me. I remembered parts of this poem and I still had difficulty tracking down the poet.  I read it on Facebook some years ago. After hours of browsing I finally came to the name Maurice Yvonne. It was like a wild goose chase in the internet. This poem best describes my love for my daughters. Some of the lines are of my own. With due respect to the poet...
Azhim 2
Azhim 1 
 
For every tear you shed from hurt
physical or emotional
For every tear you shed from shame
rightly or wrongly

My loves
my heart sheds a beat

I never knew love
 Azhims with Mom
Until I knew you
I love you both
from my tippy toes
to the peak
of my silver threads

Don't hurt my dears
But when you do
I will hold you tight
Encase your fears
Minimize the pain

And when my heart bleeds
or slightly feels a crack
It's because my daughters
your lives before mine.


I love you so much girls...

Monday, October 10, 2016

What and How...

This is an update of a different kind. I was registering myself for a program on the RIGSS website. For those of you who do not know what RIGSS is, its Royal Institute for Governance and strategic Studies. After the registration I was given a question to answer in 500-700 words. The system gives me two hours to answer this question in not more than 700 words. By the time I had done answering I still had 1 hour 29 minutes left. Thanks to my blogging experience. I don’t know if I have done justice with my reasoning but here it’s just for your reading pleasure.
Question: What can the education system do to make our youth develop into productive, responsible and efficient citizens of the future?

Thank you for the questions and I am elated to the extreme that I get the opportunity to answer to a question that relates to my professional life. Well, being a teacher means constantly engaging myself in thoughts that would make my pupils an educated and efficient citizens of the future. To cut short and delve into the question there are several factors and reasons that affect our youth in making them capable, responsible and educated citizens of Bhutan. Firstly,

1. Curriculum
As of now our curriculum is such that we invite people from the west who we consider 'consultants' and these consultants invite educationists from all school system in Bhutan, conduct a month long conference and then decide what is best for the children of Bhutan. We should be in a position to decide and maintain what is good for our own children not that an alien from the west decides what is suitable and best for the children of Bhutan. This is what has happened exactly to the English curriculum as a teacher myself. Children learn of all sorts of modern and contemporary literature forgetting the greatness of the classics. Thank god that from next year, English teachers like me can breathe a sigh of relief that the Bard, William Shakespeare will be introduced into English curriculum. Children learn from the knowledge of the past and to have a strong solid foundation in English language and literature. This is the very first step in making our youth capable of speaking and writing acceptable and correct English with confidence. Curriculum of the present should be reformed to suit the Bhutanese youth so as to make them proud, responsible and educated citizens of tomorrow, considering the confidence and English capability of some of our graduates today. 

2. System Support
Teachers all over Bhutan, even as I write this feel that there is very little support from the ministry and the RCSC. In the due course of educating and grooming our youth today, some teachers fall prey to abuse, criticisms and insults to the extreme of resigning from the Teachership. Some exceptional youth (Good as well as bad) make this happen to the teachers. In morality terms, who speaks about  good?  Even one's ultimate boss sees only the weaknesses in an employee. And for the good that one does for all these years, it's just a passing breeze commenting, "You are paid to do that". Teachers  walk the extra mile to make our youth very productive and efficient sometimes at the expense of one's personal family time only to be remarked on ones absentees from the school and the bad that you were involved years ago. If a teacher fights and raises some voice for the betterment of the youth in schools today, this move has to be in the good books of firstly the principal boss and several bosses above him or her. The current system of bureaucracy in the ministry of education particularly is so hassle-some that the teacher loses the motivation to work and perform. For those who made a mistake in a typical school, there are hordes of individuals and agencies right up to the ministry that this teacher must answer to but for those teachers who make the schools and youth proud, there is hardly anyone merely to say some appreciative words forgetting the momento(s) and awards. There is a serious problem as of now with the support that teachers get from the ministry of education let alone from the Principals of our schools today. This issue if taken care by the RCSC in particular, I bet you  teachers will perform miracles if not heartily groom the happy citizens of tomorrow. 

3. Leadership
A school in any corner of this world is defined by the principal leading that school. A school is a ship and principal its captain. All teachers and students are mere passengers. Together and only together they can sail towards destiny. Of late, I have heard of exceptional teachers not given a platform to perform in schools just because the principal belongs to some old school of thought. Prove me wrong if no such principals exist. There are plenty beginning from where I am now writing this piece. A leader must say 'Let’s go' not just 'Go' to achieve the vision what they had envisioned in beginning of the academic year. A school can be successful only if its principal is ethically and professionally correct in judgments whether be curricular or co-curricular, professional or personal on the teachers and students.

All of the three reasons above best justify my stand on what can the education system of Bhutan do to make the present generation of youth educated, responsible, productive and efficient citizens of tomorrow.


Thank You. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

My Double Trouble

My Trouble
After a day’s work when you think of having a power nap out of exhaustion the act of power napping is defeated by my kid who eagerly waits for me and even before I change she asks me, “Shoo Shoo” meaning pick her up in her usual temper tantrums. What is there to do next? Just listen and give in to her demands.
The Double Trouble

It’s a Sunday and you think of having a good baby sleep in the morning and again Tenzin wakes me up early calling “Papa (Loudly)… No No” meaning milk. She then holds my index finger and takes to me to the kitchen where I must pour her a bottle of milk.

A kid at home means double trouble for a dad like me...Two kids...you can only imagine the trouble. For all the troubles that my kids cause especially the elder one made me update this short verse. Happy reading!


Thank you god for
For the children of mine
Who teach me things
That blow my mind.
They entertain themselves
In the funniest ways.
I pray that the innocence
They possess never goes away.
I pray they will grow up
And be smart.
I pray they never feel alone.
I pray they will call home
Whenever near a phone.
And know that your dad
Will always be there. 



Thursday, September 29, 2016

Election Duty: Some Reminiscences

25th September

As obvious as it may seem to the readers, the recent LG Elections made headlines with voters exercising their franchise. I was deputed to one of the polling stations in south Thimphu. Khasadapchu MSS was the polling station where the largest numbers of voters (726) in Thimphu are enrolled.

The very first meal
25th of September was a wet day. In fact Thimphu was drenched beginning the 24th. In the rain, I and many others had to collect the EVM’s and other official papers before we moved to our respective polling stations. Arriving at the polling station, the hall was packed with plastic chairs and dusty floors. The first thing we did was arranged all the chairs and swept the huge floor. We then arranged a few tables for the poll day. We made our beds on the stage.

I had pre-arranged a large rice cooker, a curry cooker, some bowls and provisions for the nine of us in my team. We started cooking towards the evening. The huge hall had lots of tables besides the ones that we had already arranged. So Lopen Tshering and I arranged a small corner as dining table for the team. We ate broccoli stew, rice and boiled eggs with some pickles for dinner.

26th September 2016 

My Station
Waking up at 7 we washed our faces and by the time I woke up my security police –lopens had done preparing breakfast. After the meal, arranging of the machines and materials had to be done and this was the very reason why we had to be a day ahead at the polling station. The morning, we spent on making things ready and in the afternoon, some of us slept as we had difficulty sleeping in such a large hall.

27th September 2016

My team
Waking up early and getting ready was a mandate and after doing that we found ourselves conducting the mock poll before our team. After the mock poll, people were lining up even before 9 AM. Candidates had to be present during the mock poll but they weren’t around. A full day of voting gave us exactly 420 voters out of 726. We declared the results and reported it to the ECB and called our day off. The next day as I collected my perks for the duty, the amount freaked me out. I was underpaid. But nevertheless,  there was pleasure as well as pressure, so measure for measure, the pleasure far outweighed the pressure. 

Oh! How I missed my two little kids at home…there’s nothing like home be it under a bridge. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

What good is your Degree and Masters if you don’t have the decency to talk politely?

This morning at 10:33 am, I had a missed call from a landline number. I was in the class and couldn't hear the ring. Also, it is not expected to answer any calls while teaching. After the class at around 11:15 I saw it and made a return call. A man answered from the other end. I asked I missed the call because I was in the class and may I know who’s this? The answer came, “Ga ina mashey pa chin, ga lu call chap mo” (Why did you call if you don’t know who’s at the other end) and he put the phone down. I was like….what the heck?

Of no fault of mine I was answered rudely. I called back again and after a pretty long ring, someone answered. This time it was a lady. I told I was just asking which office is this because I got a missed call from this landline number. The lady replied saying sorry we don’t know who called but this is the Ministry of Education office. Then I introduced myself. I told her, I want to talk to the man who answered the phone earlier. She told me nothing about him. Instead she begged sorry on his behalf. You see now, one phone call  tarnished the image of people working in the MoE.

Google
Firstly, I made a call because there was a missed call. Unmindful of being ignorant who called, I get an answer mocking me for calling. Secondly, a lady answers apologizing and being sorry for the man who answered my call. This isn’t a new thing and this ins’t the first time I am being answered rudely for no fault of mine. Why aren’t most civil servants polite over the phones? I am ashamed mentioning that I work for the MoE and people at the head office are so rude that they even don’t have the decency to be humble while answering a call.

To the man who answered my call, ‘What good is your degree/masters and exposure you got out of the training's abroad if you don’t have the decency to talk politely over the phone? You are a worm in the bureaucracy of ours and people like you eat away the hard work teachers like we put for this nation. And I am intimidated at the very fact, how did someone like you end up working in the Ministry when you don’t know the most basic of human functions-speech? Such people work for the Sherig Lhyenkhag.’

God bless us, because teachers far and wide may call to seek help but if the person speaking at the other end is like the one I mentioned, I will surely lose my motivation and faith in the Ministry for which I am working and to which I am answerable to.
The next time you say ‘Hello’, dear teachers, pray that this person doesn’t answer you! For now I have saved the number should there arise any retribution and retaliations in future.

Happy Calling Folks!


Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Cynical Permission

The other day, out of curiosity I typed my name on Google and I was surprised to see so many Lobsang Nima’s and this made me conclude my brother’s Facebook update some years ago, “Google is God; Answers everything.” Looking closely at the search results I found two results that caught me.



I wasn’t aware that my blog posts, two updates in particular were featured by Business Bhutan in their columns and editorials. Further browsing down the links, I got my posts in Business Bhutan website. There were articles by other prominent bloggers like Yeshey Dorji and Passang Passu. I don’t know whether they are aware of this or not. For me, I am not aware of this and no one from the paper ever asked. Not that I don’t want to share what I have written but shouldn’t I know where on earth my posts are being featured.







Some years ago, Bhutan Observer did the same but they asked me if I agree to let some of my blogs be featured in their online paper. I am happy that my articles are being read but at the same time a little cynical on whether or not permission must be sought.
Until my blogger mates put down their opinions on this, this shall be an update like any other.

Good day folks. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Good morning isn’t always good

We talk of our lofty vision of GNH and place a higher degree of importance to our schools in imparting education. GNH, I am sure will be infused even more this time not forgetting the happiness cream. Curriculum is going to change; at least that is what I hear. No matter what is changed, if the ego of the teacher is before everything else, it’s like saying, “Unless your government increases my salary the earth will remain flat”. A teacher who was working in some remote school back then told this to some education inspectors.

I am living the moment of how irritating can Mondays be and the Monday sets the cornerstone for how the rest of the days would go. OK like every Mondays, there’s morning hassles, cook, eat, pack, get dressed and off to school in my case. Reaching school, greet friends and children, sign and off to the morning assembly.

Google
The retention of children is at stake here. Just recently, in groups all teachers underwent the ‘Transformative Pedagogy’ training and we were amazed to learn that a child’s retention and learning can only go beyond their age with one addition. Confused! A Child is 7 years old, his/her retention and concentration, is 7+1=8. A child of 7 years can learn and listen to 8 minutes. And these eight minutes is again difficult at a stretch. This is what research has found out.

Contrary to this finding, the morning assembly in any centre of learning goes beyond an adult’s retention. Imagine the plight of hundreds of faces in the sun looking at the teachers. Point is, say things that is important and inevitable. You do not need the brains of an all knowing saint to deliver the intended messages. Sometimes, listening can be so monotonous that you begin to doubt the speaker’s credibility. One can see the frustration on our children’s faces as well. Such uneasy can the sight sometimes be in the mornings.

These centres of learning must be the place where the value of time must be taught and instilled. The next time you greet someone good morning, although a good morning from the other end, may not have had a ‘good’ morning. Think again.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Brush up your Shakespeare

A souvenir remembering Shakespeare this year 
Reinstating Shakespeare in the English curriculum from next year came as good news at least to me. I positively hope children will enjoy it as much as I did in my schooling. May be the gods are with us because this year the bard is celebrated around the world and the playwright’s home town this year has seen thousands of visitors from around the world. This is the popularity of William Shakespeare and this year the world celebrates his 400th death anniversary. 

William Shakespeare's known portrait 
When it was removed I was in my 1st year in college and I was not in favor of this move and it broke my heart. May be the all-knowing people who thought of changing the English curriculum then, were too naïve to think out of the box-"Lord, what fools these mortals be." This is midsummer madness.

Shakespeare’s plays have everything we need to learn in literature. This obvious reason must have skipped from the minds of the curriculum saints back then. Of course the language written dates to the Renaissance England. Shakespeare plays to me is " I am one who loved not wisely but too well"-Othello.

However, after one and half decade of teaching the so called ‘modern curriculum’, people must have realized we are going awry somewhere with the English delivery in the classrooms. With this not so modern curriculum, I raised up an issue sometime in 2008. The contents and the activities although modern, dictionaries were provided obsolete with archaic words. This still happens in schools. The text is new and the words are new. Dictionaries provided are some 18th or 19th imprint dating back to 70’s. Of course one need not rely on the dictionaries these days with the internet. Retention is the proceeds that we expect from children after teaching and learning. Learning by doing is so fundamental for children to keep their learning retained for a longer period of time and there is a charm to it. Today with internet how many of our children learn academically. Instead I see children fond of online games and songs, adults included sadly.
Google Images

Children may find William Shakespeare alien but believe me, after they have gone through his plays I am sure they will begin to like and love him. Such is the appeal of literature to its readers. I am very sure the working committee of this move would like to begin with some romantic comedies rather than the fierce tragedies. I don’t know how you all across the country might take it but I am definitely overjoyed with the news. I feel there will be some real literature in our classrooms. I am euphoric. This is surely coming of better days.


Come next year, literature in higher classes will have some spice and good luck to you English teachers. Will you brush up your Shakespeare? I am sure you will. I also know it's easier said than done but "If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottage princes’ palaces." -The Merchant of Venice. 

Until Shakespeare comes next year, "To thine own self be true"-Hamlet.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Remembering Sher Khan on July 29



Disclaimer: Apart from the basics of its food habits and the tiger corridors around the world, I know very little about this amazing animal. I am neither a Tiger expert nor a wildlife biologist but this is just my opinion on one of the most beautiful animals that roam the jungles of our earth.
The 2016 movie
Back then when I was a kid and when we didn’t have a television set at home, I used to run to my neighbor’s house and watch the animated Jungle Book on the only channel Doordarshan. The language obviously was in Hindi. That was then. Even before reading the book, I knew some of the book’s character Mowgli, Bagheera, Akila, Baloo, Sher Khan, forgot the Serpent and Alpha female’s name. I don’t remember any other books that he wrote and I didn’t even read any besides the Jungle Book. I love the Book to this day. I secretly stole this book from not a very good reader friend some years ago and now I don’t have it in my collection. I have no idea where did I misplace it. 

The Book
The animated Jungle Book as a kid and reading the actual Book in my 9th grade made me connect to the story. The animation made sense and it was truly a revelation of exciting adventure that Mowgli undertakes.

The antagonist in the Book or the movie, Sher Khan (The Tiger) is killed in the end. Bagheera asks Mowgli to fight like a man not as a wolf because Mowgli was raised by the wolves. Let me not narrate what happens in the Jungle Book. Watching and listening to the fierce dialogues of Sher Khan in the movie made me update this post.


Fast forward to 2016, sleep wouldn’t come easily and it’s 2:32 AM. It is also pitch dark, let’s exactly say it’s the morning of July 25, 2016 and it’s Monday. So, good morning folks! I can hear the rain outside and I have just done watching The Jungle Book (2016). I decided to write on Sher Khan and the story which left an imprint in my mind as a kid. The plot of the movie and the book is almost the same.


The mighty Sher Khan in the movie
The Book being very close to me and thinking about the Jungle book takes me down memory lane when I was not even attending school. The tiger coincidentally happens to be my favorite animal. Of all the animals I love tigers. They were on top of the food chain in the animal world. Now they are endangered. Very few roam the wild today. This has impacted the food chain drastically. Sadly, man has become the modern day Sher Khans driving tigers to extinction.

Bhutan is home to Tigers and let us give them space so that no news makes headlines on BBS about human-wildlife conflict involving Tigers. Contrary to Kipling’s portrayal of Sher Khan, Tigers usually avoid humans and for food they hunt alone. You may have heard of the man-eating tigers of the Sundarbans and Siberia. These are cases of desperation on Tiger habitats. Had humans not encroached the tiger habitat, cases such as these wouldn’t have happened. 

Tiger filmed by Gordon Buchanan somewhere in Trongsa for the BBC
I would like to join the world community and pray for the survival of all tigers in the world today. I recommend the movie Jungle book for everyone. It is a must-watch for kids and adults alike. Another movie I like to recommend is, 'Two Brothers'. Tiger conservation needs people’s help in the countries where Tigers roam. Bhutan is one such country and let us be proud of this fact that we shelter tigers and our ecosystem is a thriving one for the Tigers. 

The time now is 3:22 AM and perhaps I should be trying to get some sleep because I have school at 8:20 AM. 

Did you know July 29 is Global Tiger Day?