ICTising our schools

ICT

There were no elaborate ceremonies nor media attention, but a significant event unfolded in the remote schools of Yarphu and Wangphu Community Primary in Samdrupjongkhar last weekend.

Not many are familiar with the names, let alone the schools. But the two combined has 226 eager minds from Classes PP to VI, ranging from ages five to 12 years. And for the first time, these children will use computers as part of their learning.

Along with the proud principals, we said our prayers and inaugurated the ICT labs. With small chairs designed to match the heights of the children facing two clean rows of about 15 desktops each, these are the most adorable ICT labs I have seen.

With that, the students of the two schools also receive His Majesty’s loving gift, the Code Monkey that introduces them to digital world through educational game-based programs. For these remote students who barely have access to gadgets, this truly is a blessed aperture of opportunities.

They will be guided by about 17 teachers, who are sacrificing as much to keep alight the lamp of learning for our children, leaving aside their own urban dreams.

For me personally, an undefined joy prevailed to witness His Majesty’s ICT aspirations making inroads in our villages. This enables our children to be a part of digitisation process that is the means and end to all other learnings in this time.

In fact, our plan is to introduce ICTisation to even ECCD level, because it has to be the Bhutanese way of life. I relate this to the salt in our dishes that enhances taste. ICT must become the main flavour in our education and beyond, just as Dzongkha and English are indispensable languages in our system. Like how we conventionally understand English as the subject that helps us comprehend and deliver in all other subjects, it will have to be ICT hereon.

Nationwide, with close guidance from His Majesty, major roll out of National Digital ID program is underway that will take public service delivery to an all new level. Alongside, the digitisation and system integration of all agencies and systems have begun.

As for the schools, in addition to the existing laboratories, additional 120 ICT labs are at various stages of construction across the country at the moment. Thousands of computers have been distributed, and alongside, installation of Local Area Network (LAN) is either complete or underway for some. A budget of Nu 1.2 billion has been kept aside for these initiatives.

We will work hard to bring ICT into education mainstream as soon as possible. We have no time to lose. In this day and age, if you do not have ICT knowledge and skills, one will not be considered literate even with all the qualifications. Therefore, when the whole world has embraced digital technology, and with even more pressing need created by the pandemic, Bhutan cannot be a mere spectator.

And the timing is perfect. At this stage of our nation, we are not just reforming the education system but overhauling it. And this cannot happen without ICT in our education, right from early years. It will not happen overnight, but the process has begun under the prescient guidance of His Majesty.

For the teachers too, besides the training on ICT curriculum and specific programs that we have offered so far, irrespective of the subjects you teach, it is important you take some time out every week to learn and upgrade your ICT knowledge and skills.

But it is true we have a long way to go in terms of ensuring infrastructure, equipment and connectivity to “ICTise” our schools. I return motivated to follow up with all relevant agencies to deliver these essential components as soon as possible. Even delay will prove costly to our children given the rate the world is changing.