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UCSB’s Gevirtz School a Partner in Education Reform in Bhutan
Sandwiched between India and Tibet, the Bhutanese highlands are said to have been inhabited since 2000 B.C. Buddhism came via Tibet in the early 7th century. The education remains largely monastic, largely geared toward those headed for the monastery.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Gevirtz Dean Jane Close Conoley said. The members of the royal council that recently visited Harding and Peabody Charter schools last week, as well as UCSB classes focused on English and technology, are looking for best practices to bring back to Bhutan.
The Gevirtz School is only one of several partners likely to be recruited in this endeavor, a plan that aims to create “model schools” out of the approximately 500 schools in the kingdom. Plans are afoot to send a handful of grad students regularly to teach in the country for one or two years, and to analyze the education system in Bhutan to see how it can be changed accordingly. The program will be monitored in the long run through an alliance with the Royal Education Council. The program is expected to run 15 to 20 years.
“It takes a long time to reform a 1,000-year-old system,” Conoley said.
UCSB’s participation began as an attempt by the chairwoman of the dean’s council, Peggy Lamb, to fulfill a request to help find a teacher for a remote town she was visiting.
It was an idea that took off almost from the start with Lamb and colleague Ann Lippincott, assistant director of the Gevirtz teacher education program, pushing it along. According to Conoley, a memorandum of understanding is in the works.
It’s still an uphill climb: funding for the endeavor comes from the university’s international outreach funds, but the rest will have to come from a combination of Bhutanese state funds and a combination of fundraising from U.S. and Bhutanese counterparts.
“Right now, the plan is for the teacher to get there on their own,” Lamb said. Once there, the new teacher will be given housing and a salary of 10,000 Nu ($250) a month. Eventually, Lamb wants to establish a scholarship that would fund the travel expenses. Other plans include a student and professor exchange.
What UCSB gets in return, Conoley said, is the opportunity for Gevirtz grad students to immerse themselves in a new and different culture. Bhutan was recently listed as the eighth happiest country in the world, with a culture dedicated to “Gross National Happiness,” the result of a balance between economic development and general happiness and peace in the country. It’s an experience, she says, that could deepen the quality of education in both Bhutan and the United States.
Those interested in helping fund the endeavor should contact Wes Gibson, Gevirtz’s director of development, at 805.893.7965 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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