Happy International Development Week! Celebrating Canada’s history of partnering with Bhutan

Canadians are celebrating International Development Week (IDW) across the country from February 3-9, 2019. The week recognizes the work of Canada and its partners in the Global South as they strive to improve wellbeing and reduce poverty. IDW has been held in Canada every first week of February since 1991.

The week marks a good time to reflect on Canada’s role in working together with Bhutan to promote education and wellbeing in the country. Going all the way back to the early 1960s, Canadian Jesuit Father William Mackey established the first secular school in the east of Bhutan. Since then, Canadian organizations like WUSC, the University of New Brunswick, Humber College and the Bhutan Canada Foundation have continued the tradition of supporting Bhutan’s education efforts.

This year’s IDW theme is “Together for gender equality.” Bhutan’s education system has made significant strides in providing both girls and boys with equal access to education. Recent statistics from the Ministry of Education1 show that girls now have a slightly higher net school enrollment rate (93%) than boys (92%) as they represent 51% of total enrollment up to class XII. Yet gender challenges remain. Women still lag behind men, for example, in adult literacy rates at 57% to 75%. Girls also underperform when compared to boys in areas such as math. As Bhutan moves forward to address these kinds of challenges, Canada will continue its history of working with Bhutanese partners to strengthen the education sector and build networks between Bhutanese and Canadian education institutions. International Development Week is a good time to both celebrate the history of Canadian- Bhutanese collaboration in education and look toward to the future.

For more information on IDW, please visit the Global Affairs Canada website here. And don’t forget to check out and tweet #IDW2019

1 Ministry of Education (MoE). (2018). Annual Education Statistics 2018. Thimphu: MoE. http://www.education.gov.bt/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Annual-Education-Statistics-Book-2018.pdf

Bringing Bhutanese research to life: The International Society for Bhutan Studies inaugural conference

The International Society for Bhutan Studies (ISBS) held its inaugural conference in January 2019 at Magdalen College, Oxford University. Attended by Dr. Kent Schroeder, Executive Director of the Bhutan Canada Foundation, the conference brought together a diverse range of researchers and scholars from around the world. Presentations focused on all things Bhutan: education, Buddhism, linguistics, culture, the environment, anthropology and Gross National Happiness.

Photo copyright: ISBS

A keynote address delivered by the former prime minister of Bhutan, His Excellency Dasho Tshering Tobgay, highlighted the conference. The address asked “Does Bhutan matter?” and explored the progress and challenges the country has experienced since democratization. The keynote address can be viewed online here.

The intent of ISBS is to strengthen existing areas of research on Bhutan and inspire exploration of new ones. The Bhutan Canada Foundation hopes to continue to engage with ISBS, particularly around how to better link scholarly research to practical and policy concerns in Bhutan. The inaugural conference was organized by ISBS in partnership with the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, the Samuel Centre of Social Connectedness, the Bhutan Society of the United Kingdom, Magdalen College and the University of Oxford.

Student Story: Bhutanese Students Write Their First Book

This September, the students at Jakar Higher Secondary School in central Bhutan wrote their first book. It was a collection of stories and poems called We Are Bhutan

Book Launch Party: Students are signing books and celebrating with pizza

The book was first published on Amazon, where it currently ranks as the #43 best-selling book in its category. Students used these profits to pay for printing the book here in Bhutan. They printed 1,000 copies and have already sold almost half of them.

The project was organized by BCF teacher Mr. Evan, who collected the stories, helped the student editors, and sold the book to its American publisher. “This was a really cool project,” Mr. Evan said, “but the students did most of the work. I just got them started.”

To celebrate the book’s release, all student writers gathered on 5 October for a book signing and pizza party. Over 80 students were in attendance, along with the school’s vice principal. The party was hosted by Mr. Evan, who helped the eight tables of students autograph as many books as possible.

 

“I think it will really inspire others to write for our next book” 

-Tshering Wangmo, grade 9 student

 

“I felt very happy to attend this party, and I think it will really inspire others to write for our next book,” said Tshering Wangmo, a student from Grade 9 who contributed two poems.

Also among the guests were the four students who won international awards with their writing: Dorji Wangchuk (Grade 10), Tila Rupa Chhetri (11), Amandika Thapa (9), and Tandin Tshering (10). Their stories and poems received special recognition, each winning an award in America.

“I was really surprised when I saw my poem in a magazine,” said Tandin Tshering, the most recent winner. “The publisher didn’t even tell me I won. They just sent me a copy of the magazine.”

As for We Are Bhutan, the students hope to sell the remaining copies within the next two months. They plan to set up a booth during next week’s tshechu (festival) and sell to all the visiting tourists.

“Once we raise enough money,” Mr. Evan said, “we will use it to print our second book in January.”

 

 

This story was written by Choki Om. Choki is a grade 9 student in Evan Purcell’s class. Congratulations to the students at Jakar Higher Secondary School for publishing We Are Bhutan – this is an incredible accomplishment! And thank you Choki for taking the time outside of publishing a book to share this story!

You can purchase We Are Bhutan here

Newsletter from Jakar Higher Secondary School

Ever wonder what goes on in schools in Bhutan? Take a peak at the student made newsletter to learn more about their reading week “Wall Magazine” contest and their new School Museum!

 

Jakar Higher Secondary School Newsletter

 

This newsletter was made by the English Literary Club at Jakar Higher Secondary School. Thank you BCF teacher, Evan Purcell, for sharing all the great work your students are doing!

 

Three Published Authors in Central Bhutan

When I first volunteered to teach in Bhutan, I did not expect to see my students become published writers. I thought I’d teach some classes and maybe do a few school-wide projects. I didn’t expect my students to be so ambition… and so talented.

Now, during my second year at Jakar High School in central Bhutan, I have three students who just sold their writing to publishers in America, and I couldn’t be prouder.

Our first writer is named Dorji Wangchuk. He’s a student in grade ten, and he wrote an original fable called “Tree God,” about a village on the brink of environmental disaster and a mysterious visitor who teaches everyone how to fix their own problems.

It’s a really good story, and you’ll be able to read it in October when the anthology I Write Short Stories by Kids for Kids Vol. 9 comes out. The book, funded by the Houston Literary Organization, collected stories and poems from students all over the world. Dorji is the first Bhutanese writer to be a part of this project.

“I was really surprised when I heard the news,” Dorji said. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me before.”

His award ceremony is scheduled for October 27 in Houston, Texas. I really hope he gets to go, but plane tickets might be too expensive. Still, even if he doesn’t attend, he’ll always have the honor of being a published writer at sixteen. I’m really proud of him.

My other two writers are both poets. Amandika Thapa from grade nine and Tila Rupa Chhetri from grade eleven will both be featured in the Sewing the Seeds of Peace anthology, also based in Texas. Amandika’s poem “A Conversation with Peace” and Tila’s poem “Looking for Peace” are both beautiful pieces of writing.

Their big award ceremony is scheduled for next month, to coincide with the International Day of Peace on September 23.

I love my job in Bhutan. The students here are so motivated and clever. As a foreign teacher, I truly feel that it’s my responsibility to help them reach their full potential. Because Bhutan is such a small country, it can be hard for the students here to know how to express themselves. They all want to be heard. I just gave them the megaphone.

 

This blog post was written by Evan Purcell, a BCF teacher in central Bhutan. Read the published story in the national newspaper in Bhutan, Kuensel, here.

You can also follow the writers’ work at https://iwrite.org/i-write-contest/ or https://www.inspiritry.com/pages/peace/art-of-peace-tyler

Summer Reading Program: It’s a Wrap!

With the summer almost at an end, it also brings the end of another very successful reading program.

Our teachers came together for a lively discussion sharing their own unique experiences and debriefing on the program. We are very thankful of the contributions each of our teachers made this summer. To each of our teachers, thank you for supporting education to youth in local communities across Bhutan!

Interested in joining our reading program? We are now seeking teachers to join us in 2019! Read more information at: https://bhutancanada.org/programs/bhutan-reading-program/