Wednesday, July 25, 2012

CDW Part 4: Tarayana Foundation

Karma Wangchuk, a programme officer at the Tarayana Foundation, attended the Curriculum Design Workshop as the lone representative of his organization. Since much of the workshop was based on group activities, he had his work cut out for him. But Karma showed dedication and enthusiasm for the work and carried on to present a very convincing final presentation that illustrated his grasp of the material. 

When we met up a week later to discuss the next steps that Tarayana could take, Karma was still very enthusiastic about the experience and said one of the most lasting impressions was Dr. Tho Havinh's use of the Four Noble Truths as a lesson planning tool. Dr. Tho is setting up a new GNH Center in Bumthang, by the way, a project to be watched!

It was a pleasure to have Karma at the workshop, he was an active participant, fully engaged, insightful and willing to go the extra mile. He developed an entire KUD on his own. Below is how he used the Four Noble Truths to address the issue of rural to urban migration. I think he raised some excellent Essential Questions, particularly the last one. We mustn't underestimate the capability of rural villages to understand the concept of systems that control them, and by understanding those systems they will be better equipped to find their own strength and resiliency. 

SUFFERING: Rural to Urban Migration

CAUSES OF SUFFERING: Often rural villages are not aware of their role and worth, there is growing lack of respect for the traditional way of living, mis-representation of town and city life in media, they don’t know the difference between need and want, lack of proper facilities (market, cooperatives, banks, hospitals, schools), new roads, media/television.

CESSATION OF SUFFERING/GOALS/OBJECTIVE: To support villages and rural communities in such a way that the youth don’t feel the need to migrate. Drawing attention to the fact that village life can be fulfilling and interesting.  Provision of facilities.

PATH: Providing relevant education and facilities not simply transplanting urban education and facilities, instead creating unique models of education, cooperatives, self help groups and promoting ecotourism.

Why money is not equal to wealth?
What will happen if all the rural communities migrate to urban areas?
What will happen if all farmers give up farming?
How will electricity change our lives?
How do roads change the community?
Does sending your children to government school affect the family and community? Is it always a positive?
What systems control our lives (environmental, family, government, corporate)?

Good Job Karma!

Monday, July 16, 2012

CDW Part 3: Royal Education Council

Thimphu group's final presentation.
The Royal Education Council sent the largest group of all the partner organizations: 12 teachers from its seed schools in Thimphu and Paro for the entire workshop, plus four Master Teachers for the first week.

This was a challenging group because 1) they are the most bound by existing structures imposed by the ministry of labor and therefore the least flexible when it comes to making institutional wide changes and 2) they are the most "workshopped" bunch of them all. After working long hours for long weeks for long months, their only vacation time is workshops. At these workshops they are given mountains of good ideas but then they must move those mountains into their little classrooms. So they had our sympathies.

Thimphu group hard at work.
All that said, they also worked very hard on imagining a different way of teaching. Pawan Gupta explained to them that textbooks are a means not an end and encouraged them to extract only what is relevant and meaningful from textbooks but then to use the local and natural environment as the text. "Be Brave!" was our motto throughout the workshop and of all the groups, the REC gents and madams had to be the most brave.

The Thimphu group did a great job presenting their "take aways" including many of the active learning strategies we had modeled and some of the methods we illustrated including: Multiple Intelligence, Brain Based Learning, Listening Skills, Theater in the Classroom, Subject Integration, Project Based Learning, The Four Noble Truths for Lesson Planning, and, importantly, the KUD (Know Understand Do) method of unit planning, or block planning as they call it. They said that they were committed to using these in their classrooms as well as continuing with their meditation instruction with their new deeper understanding after Nima, Jackie, and Lama Shenphen's meditation sessions.

Madam Kuenzang and
Madam Tshewang
helping out on day one. 
Specifically they want to incorporate Community Based Culture into their existing curriculum and they developed a set of essential questions around that theme with an outline of a field trip that could help answer those questions. They ended their presentation with a song that they was lovely!

The Paro Group created a special unit based on vegetables so students can make informed decisions about what to buy and what not to buy or what is best for an individual or community. They created two lesson plans around their KUDs and essential questions.

The group of master teachers lead by Madam Tshewang and Am Dechen Tshomo, Gep Tshering and Kuenzang Dema were super fantastic, sharing all kinds of brain boosters, active learning strategies, and class building activities that kept the workshop feeling very alive. Our favorite was Madam Tshewang's Charo Charo brain booster, lifted from Mrs. Das's workshop but "Bhutanized". In the original game, we would sing My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean and every time there was a B word we had to stand if we were sitting or sit if we were standing. In this version we sang Charo Charo (Friend Friend) and used the C words to sit or stand. Here's a rough clip:

One great outcome, and something several REC teachers mentioned in their assessments was that they got to interact with teachers and instructors from many different kinds of institutions and they seemed to really appreciate sharing experiences. Here's a picture of Phuntsho Rabgay horsing around with Dawa and a few of the NFE instructors.

Thanks to all the REC teachers for spending their break with us and to Mr. Lhundup Dukpa from REC for arranging everything. It was a real pleasure working with all of you!

Still to come: Bhutan Nuns Foundation, and Tarayana Foundation.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

CDW Part 2: Ministry of Labor

We did our very best to give each of our participating organizations individual and personal attention. Whenever we broke into Lesson Planning Sessions, one of our resource people would be assigned to a group, sit with them, observe them, and really listen to the issues they face so that we could provide the most relevant assistance. The original plan was to have them rotate every so often but the NFE group quickly bonded with Jackie Mitchell of the Shambhala School and she ended up spending the whole workshop with them. We found that combination of Pawan-ji with the teachers from the Royal Education Council government seed schools created a healthy challenge. Randi Dickson worked closely with the Bhutan Nuns Foundation and REC, though she brought her patience and expertise to the tables of nearly every group. Evan Moss also pitched in with her thoughtful and optimistic support, always there when she was needed. Meanwhile, the crack team from the Ministry of Labor and Human Resources Vocational Training was extremely adept at synthesizing the content sessions into their group work and often didn't need our help at all! We would observe them in awe as they swiftly came up with a most impressive plan. It also soon became apparent that the Bhutan International School of Hospitality and Tourism could easily fold into the vocational training group and a good partnership between the two was struck. 

Ministry of Labor and Human Resources, Vocational Training 

Mission: A nation where all its citizen have the opportunity for a gainful and quality employment characterized by harmonious and productive relationship in the workplace and the broader community.

Kinley, Norbu, and Karma from MoLHR,
Chencho from BISHT
with Evan Moss in the middle.
The Ministry of Labor and Human Resources sent an excellent team of four Program Officers and three instructors from its Technical Training department to address issues they face in educating the labor sector. They joined forces with Chencho Tshering from the Bhutan International School of Hospitality and Tourism (BISHT) to create a concrete plan that will change the way vocational trainees begin their education at MoLHR institutions.
Presentation on the final day.

They identified their main issue as dignity of labor. A unit that helps students understand themselves, recognize their strengths and weaknesses and set clear goals for their futures might help them navigate the rest of their training with more dignity.

They developed one sample lesson plan that asks students to identify one of their heros, whether they be in the family, local heroes, mythical heroes or someone from the media. They will be asked to reflect what types of characteristics those heroes have through a number of activities that are designed to bring out their various skills and strengths based on Dr. Tho's multiple intelligence model. Mindfulness practice will also be introduced. The team, saying late almost every night, actually developed about ten lesson plans but only shared the one with the group because of time contraints. We are very much looking forward to seeing more from this dedicated group.

Karma giving a presentation of the issues
MoLHR faces early in the week.
The team is going to propose that MoLHR introduce a new 1 week intensive for new students at the beginning of each year, with follow up 2-3 hours per week thereafter. The pilot project will begin at 3 vocational training centres, or what they now are calling Technical Training Institutions, beginning in August 2013, which will give them enough time to fully develop the unit and train instructors. Meanwhile, BISHT will begin implementation on a small scale immediately.

Again, many thanks to Kinley Wangmo, Ugyen, Norbu Dema, Karma Lhazom, Leky Dorji, Khandu, Kinley Gyeltsen and also to Mr. Karma and their Director for their unwavering dedication and hard work.

Download the MoLHR unit here:

Next up...The Royal Education Council Thimphu and Paro, Bhutan Nuns Foundation, and Tarayana Foundation.

2012 LME Curriculum Development Workshop Part 1: CGI and NFE

Lhomon Education's 2012 Curriculum Design Workshop at Paro College of Education came to a close on Thursday, July 12th, with an afternoon of presentations at Hotel Holiday Home by our participants. We had a total of 45 participants from six organizations, 5 full time resource people and a number of special guests attend the workshop. It was a rich experience, generating important conversations and leading to some key new connections. Dasho Pema Thinley, Vice Chancellor of the Royal University of Bhutan officiated the opening lighting of the butter lamp, and also came to our closing ceremony. He said he was most impressed by our ability to bring together such an amazing group of people with a joint vision of bettering Bhutanese education.

At the closing ceremony, each group had 20 minutes to demonstrate what they had learned and detail their implementation plans. Even though we had provided ten days packed with sessions on a variety of relevant subjects—the importance of project based learning, methods of integration, mindfulness in the classroom, using theater/improv in the classroom, the four levels of listening, the Four Nobel Truths as a lesson planning tool, infusing values, using the local environment, distinctions between need and wants, combining art and math, active learning strategies, identity and storytelling, multiple intelligence—and even though they had spent ten days of hard work with intensive guidance by our facilitators, we didn't know what to expect.

In short, the presentations exceeded our wildest dreams. It was a most inspiring afternoon. Over the course of the workshop, each group had narrowed down their objectives, honed in on what was needed most, adjusted the assignments to suit their needs, ultimately coming up with strategic plans for how to change the way they are educating, some in small important ways, and others with a major overhaul.

Dawa and Lopon Dechen

Chokyi Gyatsho Institute 

The two monks from CGI, Tshering Darje and Lopon Dechen, were a wonderful complement to our eclectic group. They worked with the voluntary assistance of a senior education student at Paro College named Dawa who was a last minute addition to our roster but who turned out to be a major contributor to the workshop with his enthusiasm and active participation.

The CGI plan is to start implementation of a new curriculum in February 2012. There will be 6 units taught per year, each taking about 5 weeks, 3 hours a day, 6 days per week.

Tshering Darje
Dawa helped the monks develop a lesson plan based around water and demonstrated several active learning strategies he'd picked up during the workshop: Using a line up (shortest to tallest) to divide the group then counting us off into groups of six where we were asked to address water issues as they pertained to six different areas of study (water and health, water and government, uses of water, etc.) then come up with 3 questions on that subject. He explained that if he were to teach this unit at the monastery, he would then take the monks on a nature walk with an expert who would answer the questions as they walked.

It was a multi-faceted presentation and the whole group was actively engaged in Dawa's instruction. He will make a fine teacher and we hope to continue our work with him. The monks are heading back to eastern Bhutan to share what they learned with the others. In November I will be heading there myself to oversee the implementation of the curriculum alongside the teacher we hire (details to come!)

Nonformal Education Programme

Yeshi, Rinzin, Norbu and Dorji Wangchuk
working on their presentation.
We invited five Paro-area Nonformal Education Programme instructors to attend the workshop and were delighted by the talent and enthusiasm they poured into the work. They were a little reticent at first, there was a language barrier and they were not immediately understanding what we were trying to accomplish. But Jackie Mitchell worked closely with them from day one and they soon became one of the most active and vocal groups attending the workshop.

There was no one from an administrative level with them to help devise a long term plan but they went ahead and created lesson plans that could be used within their existing syllabus. Their focus was on linking language instruction with life skills and health awareness. They took the lead from Pawan Gupta and focused on project based learning that gives value to local wisdom and culture by using the local environment. Also drawing from Dr. Havinh Tho's presentation on multiple intelligence, they chose a project that would let people with various skills participate.

Their final lesson plan was to create a local dictionary of traditional health remedies and bioindicators (i.e. when a certain bird begins roosting, it's time to plant potatoes). Those with visual intelligence can help design and illustrate the dictionary, those with strong verbal intelligence can help translate it into Dzonghka and English, and those with strong logic skills can help figure out what it would cost to print and sell the dictionary, thus developing their basic math skills.

To top off their wonderful presentation, they did a role play, acting out some of the new classroom strategies they learned. They performed a scene where a teacher (Dorji Wangchuk) used Jackie's kinesthetic body movement for language instruction, tracing the letters with arms and adding sound and song to help memorization. All the instructors said they had learned many new techniques to use in their classes and felt energized and ready to try them out. Many thanks to Kelsang, Yeshi Jyamtsho, Norbu Wangdi, Dorji Wangchuk, and the ever entertaining Rinzin for their hard work and dedication. Bhutan is lucky to have you as teachers!

Download the Powerpoint Presentations Here.

Next...Ministry of Labor and Human Resources Vocational Training, Bhutan International School of Hospitality and Tourism, The Royal Education Council Thimphu and Paro, Bhutan Nuns Foundation, and Tarayana Foundation.