Tibet TV of Department of Information and International Relations interviewed Kalon Dr Pema Yangchen of Department of Education, Central Tibetan Administration, on the occasion of the second anniversary of the 15th Kashag.
Following is the English transcript of Tibet TV’s interview with Kalon Dr Pema Yangchen.
Tibet TV: What are the major achievements of the Department of Education in its 2-year tenure?
Kalon: 1. We have successfully implemented the Basic Education Policy in all schools under Tibetan Children’s Village (Class 1 onwards). 2. The Department has organised series of training for trainers focused mainly on Basic Education Policy and through this, successfully organised awareness programs in respective schools.
3. Importantly, transcription and publication of books, mainly compilation of Kalon Trisur Professor Samdong Rinpoche’s speeches, on Basic Education Policy. 4. Adoption of important resolutions by the Education Council.
5. Series of publications in line with the Basic Education Policy. For example, Buddhist textbook for Class VI to XII, Maths textbook for class VI and VII and Tibetan language textbook for class IX to class XII.
6. Finalised curriculum based on the Basic Education Policy for Primary schools and Guidebook for Science and Buddhist Dialectic teachers. 7. 7th Publication of Science and Social Science textbooks.
8. Introduction of Flash Cards in Montessori learning. 9. Successful launch of Tibetan learning website http:bodyiglobjong.com. The website contains all Tibetan textbooks and children’s story books published since 1960.
10. Introduction of Audiovisual learning of Maths and Science in Primary Schools. 11. DOE has released Tibetan animated films for Children such as Akhu Phagpa Episode series; Jorgyal and Dhondup Episode I and Buddha Sutra.
12. The launch of 40 volumes of Sontsa Children’s books that were distributed to Tibetan Weekend Schools in North America. 13. Translation of Children’s story books in Tibetan.
14. Reading Corner in over 185 classrooms for students of class 1 – 3 and new libraries in over 36 classrooms of Nepal Tibetan schools. 15. Early Grade Reading workshop for 180 teachers and 300 parents of Tibetan schools.
16. The Department in collaboration with the Emory University is working on Secular Ethics curriculum. 17. A speaking tour on Secular ethics by Geshe Gyaltsen in all Tibetan schools and colleges are underway.
18. We are currently working on creating a website focussed on Secular Ethics and archive speeches by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Geshe Thupten Jinpa and Geshe Lobsang Tenzin.
19. The Terminology Desk had launched the first ever Tibetan English terminology website https:tibterminology.net
20. The Department is currently providing scholarship for 1089 Tibetan students from all over India and Nepal.
21. We are also organising workshops and orientation for XII passed students. Counsellors interact with them and provide information on admission, selection process and updates. 22. Training for Art teachers at Schools.
23. The Modern and Traditional Education Desk is organising series of focussed training for Science and Math teachers. 24. We have organised Early Grade Reading workshop for heads of Tibetan schools.
Tibet TV: You have recently visited Tibetan settlements and schools in Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Gangtok and Sonada, what has been your assessment?
Kalon: The facilities in those schools are good, however, I have observed that the number of students in the schools is very small and most of them are from the Himalayan regions. During a meeting with parents and teachers, I had the opportunity to speak about the new teaching models to retain students’ attention, studying various researches on effective teaching styles and to uphold one’s virtues and values in practice of teaching. I had the opportunity to express gratitude to the Indian teachers for their service.
Tibet TV: You have a strong academic background in education. Moreover, you have also been a teacher for many years. Therefore, what do you think are the areas in the Tibetan education system that needs development and improvement?
Kalon: Most of the teachers in Tibetan schools are qualified and competent. However, I find it important to provide training and workshops for the teachers to develop their capacities. And I will do my best in that regard.
I have also been a teacher earlier. What I learned from my experience was that one of the best modes of developing yourself is through candid interactions and cooperation with fellow teachers. That was also what I found out during my Ph.D research.
There is a great transformation between teachers during my time and the current teachers in the schools. These changes are brought about by changes in time and system. During my time as a teacher, there were a lot of classes to take and a huge syllabus to cover, leaving little time to interact with other teachers. Even if there was some time, it will be spent mostly on correcting student’s papers and preparing for the topics that should be covered in the next classes. Time for interaction and discussion with fellow teachers is hardly available.
While I was doing my research in 2007/2008, I got the opportunity to speak to a lot of teachers and solicited their views and opinions. I found out that exchanging ideas among teachers and reading books on teaching methods on top of the coursework is of extreme importance. Once you get an interesting idea on teaching, first you should apply it yourself and if it succeeds, then you should talk about this new method to your fellow teachers. This will not only help the individual teacher but also his/her colleagues.
Since the number of students in our schools is declining these days, I am sure our teachers will get a little more time to think about such things.
Moreover, the development of teachers should be one of the most important responsibilities of the school heads. So, we need to do more to develop our teachers. And the school heads should have an idea about how to do that in an effective and efficient manner.
Recently, I got an opportunity to attend the inaugural session of Early Grade Reading workshop for school heads. That time, I spoke about the importance of ‘Instructional Leadership’. Instructional leadership can be done only if the school heads visit the classrooms and interact with the teachers, it cannot be done by staying in the office. I know that the school heads are taking an active role in devising unique ways to bring development, but I feel that it’s important to continue doing our best, and not giving up.
Tibet TV: In the next three years, what are the education department’s major projects and goals?
Kalon: Our major goal in the next three years is the introduction of modern technologies in the classrooms to aid teaching in schools, also known as Information, Communication and Technology (ICT). A pilot project of ICT is already underway in schools. The success of the project will depend on the participation and dedication of the teachers.
We have also held numerous workshops for primary school teachers to develop their capacity. And we will continue to hold capacity development workshops for the teachers.
In August this year, Lhamo Pempa, a US-based Tibetan, will hold a comprehensive workshop for mathematics teachers of Tibetan primary schools through International Montessori Teachers Training Institute.
In July, we will be beginning a teacher training on Tibetan language. Besides these projects, we are also planning to publish numerous books and animatation clips targeted towards Tibetan children. A project is also underway to create a Tibetan and mathematics exercise book for students. A program to translate science textbooks in middle schools is also ongoing. The activities of the education department are quite vast. So, to talk about the entire activities of the department would be difficult and time consuming. However, you can visit sherig.org, the website of the education department for a detailed understanding of the projects and activities of the department, particularly scholarships for Tibetan students.
In conclusion, I want to express that we all have an equal and immense responsibility to provide fruitful and impactful education to our children. Since most of the parents of students these days are educated, parents should bear an extra responsibility to guide and advise their children about the importance of education and academic excellence. More importantly, we should exert efforts towards the preservation of Tibetan language and culture. Tibetan children abroad should try to speak in Tibetan, and the parents too should make an effort to inculcate the importance of speaking in Tibetan with their children. This is very important.