Prime Minister announces Saturdays off for schools

Coinciding with the Teachers’ Day celebrations at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu today, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay announced that schools will have Saturdays off starting this week. The prime minister said that the decision was carefully considered to ensure it does not compromise education quality, adding that many stakeholders believe the change will improve education standards.

For months, teachers and students eagerly awaited the news on keeping schools closed on Saturdays. The prime minister finally made the eagerly anticipated announcement today.

When the prime minister announced it earlier today, teachers across the country were overjoyed.

“All the teachers including myself are overjoyed. The time will be used meaningfully and productively with our family and doing personal work,” said Chimmi, a teacher at Rinchen Kuenphen Primary School.

“I would like to thank the government on behalf of all the teachers. It will not only benefit the teachers but will also provide an opportunity for the students to study harder,” said Kencho Dorji, a teacher at Jungshina Primary School.

“Keeping Saturdays off for teachers and students is one of the pledges of the government. So, I have been hoping the announcement would be made in one fine day. This is because it requires an adequate time to carry out in-depth studies to make the decision,” said Leki Dorji, a teacher at Damphu Middle Secondary School, Tsirang.

“The news came as a blessing for every teacher and me. We would like to thank everyone involved in making this possible. This means a lot of family time. This will also help parents in the village get help from their children in fieldwork and other activities,” said Anita Pradhan, a teacher at Sang-Ngag-Choeling LSS, Samtse.

“Teachers will now get enough time to prepare for their classes on Mondays and other weekdays. Likewise, students will also get enough time to do their homework and assignments,” said Melam Zangpo, a teacher at Dorokha Lower Secondary School, Samtse.

“Teachers, students, and even their parents work over the entire weekdays and I think we need a break. Having Saturdays off will benefit us in lesson planning and also the parents in guiding their children back home,” said Sangay Tala, a teacher at Zhemgang Primary School.

“We can make good lesson plans and also ready teaching materials. It will also help the students to explore and take up group work at home,” said Thinley Pem, a teacher at Zhemgang Primary School.

Like teachers, students have also welcomed the initiative.

“I feel happy because when we come to school on Saturdays we have to do homework which adds pressure on us and also the teachers. I feel when Saturday is kept off, we can develop sports and reading skills and try to study on our own,” said Khedrup Thinley Pelzang, a student at Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School, Thimphu.

“We are all very happy with the news and I hope that students and teachers will get the mental rest. I also hope that everyone will have fun Saturdays,” said Khedrup Thinley Pelzang, also a student at Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School.

Some of the parents in rural areas added that it would allow children to rest and follow up on their health issues besides helping their parents in the fields.

“Declaring Saturdays off has gone well with parents like myself. This would help our children to take rest and we can take them to hospitals without applying for a separate leave,” said Lil Maya Pulami, a parent from Tsirang.

“In villages, it would help the parents during the paddy cultivation as there are lot of work, and need a hand,” said Tashi Choden, a parent from Zhemgang.

Keeping Saturdays off for schools was one of the election pledges of the government. The prime minister reiterated the commitment on the first day after taking office in January.

“The government wanted to keep Saturdays off on the first day of office. However, it is always easy to decide but what if it affects the quality of the education? Hence, a committee was formed to study the viability. We talked with the parents, students, teachers, and international specialists to which, the majority of the stakeholders involved agreed that if Saturday is kept off for schools, there is room for improvement to the education system. Globally, there are a lot of transformations and works underway to improve the education system. From here on, we are going to work towards improving the quality of the education. We are going to review the courses and do away with them if they do not work. We will work towards fulfilling the vision of His Majesty The King.”

Earlier this year, when the government disclosed that a teachers’ committee tasked with carrying out studies to see the feasibility of keeping Saturdays off had expressed reservation over the plan, the government faced backlash from the people demanding it to deliver its pledge.

Sonam Yuden & bureau reporters

Edited by Sonam Pem

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