The Ministry of Education in its pursuit to achieve the national education goal “Education for All by 2012″, initiated massive expansion of community schools, after the world conference on Education for All (EFA) held in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990. Some of the important ideas of theses major steps of expansion were to take the schools to every community including remote and scattered settlements, so that it contributed towards fulfilling the education policy of reducing the walking distance of young children to schools.
Multi-grade teaching was then introduced in 1991 as a key strategy of teaching. The Ministry of Education recognizes that multigrade teaching strategy will continue to be one of the important strategies as number of schools in small and scattered communities has been growing progressively and is likely to continue.
Our criteria of labeling a school as a multigrade schools is strictly based on the number of sections, number of students against the number of teachers available in that school at that particular academic year.
If we say, Jongthang Community Primary School in Trongsa, is a multigrade school, we refer to the number of students and sections against the number of teachers available in that school. For example, that school in 2009 had 46 students with four sections of students (PP-III), but there were only two teachers. This means, the school has to combine two sections, making two multigrade classrooms having approximately 23 students in each multigrade class. In fact when we say Jongthang Community Primary School is a multigrade school, we mean Jongthang Community Primary School has a multigrade classroom situation.
Since the introduction of multigrade teaching as a strategy, many teachers were trained through in-country as well as ex-country training programs with the support mainly from the UNICEF. However, due to transfer of teachers on completion of certain number of years in the same school, the multigrade schools have been continuously losing the skilled teachers. As a result, training multigrade teachers either upon their transfer from non-multigrade schools to multigrade schools, or on completion of teacher training has been a cumbersome challenge for the Ministry of Education.
The present trend on the growth of multigrade schools indicates that multigrade schools will keep on expanding. Further, the government’s commitment to establish extended classrooms will contribute towards even greater progression in the expansion of multigrade schools. This means the demand for training of teachers will phenomenally rise. However, with the introduction of multigrade teaching module in the Colleges of Education, Paro and Samtse, since two years ago, the issue of sustainability is likely to be addressed.
Mr. Karchung looks after this program.