Covid-19 crisis and the Life-Principle of Learning

As a teacher, I believe that the first principle of education is the affirmation and celebration of life. Life is precious and every bit worth preserving and honouring. Little wonder, here is the emphatic command of the King Himself on behalf of Life, Milu Rinpoche: ‘Not a single life should be lost to coronavirus’.

The whole world is coming around!

All our teaching and learning will go only so far and no further if this basic principle of education is missing. As unusual as the current situation is, it may provide a welcome opportunity to re-discover the fundamental goal of education – that is Sherig – meaning ‘deep learning’. We will then be able to locate the core purpose of education as it ought to be.

The scourge of the coronavirus has forced education systems around the world to find alternative ways of teaching the students and engaging them meaningfully during these uncertain periods of home-stay while at the same time hoping to ‘cover the sacrosanct syllabus’!

The Ministry of Education has formulated versatile plans and our fellow-teachers are making valiant efforts to marshal technology to reach out to their students. All this is as it ought to be in the given ongoing situation. And, the results, I would like to believe, must match the inputs.

In the unlikely event that current public security interventions warrant extension, an additional option could require the students to explore diverse and original formats to represent their previous year’s or semester’s learning and submit credible samples of work for assessment at the end of the designated period.

Knowledge is power but how knowledge is internalised and represented is success.

This alternative would provide greater diversity in learning and in representing what is learnt, free learning from undue dependence on expensive gadgets especially in disadvantaged areas, relieve teachers to focus on more purposeful support and monitoring, and build greater integrity in learning.

Above all, such alternatives would emphasise depth over breadth, insights over information, quality over quantity, education over qualification, among other advantages.

The intent of Every Village a School: Every Home a Classroom, and Educating for Gross National Happiness initiatives was to pave the way for learning blessed with integrity.

For now though, precious Life is absolute Priority Number 1.

We are all in it together… in our efforts, in prayers, in our hope…

Thakur S Powdyel
Former Minister of Education in Bhutan, Starter of Green School in Bhutan