In March 2011, we made an education exchange trip to Bhutan. This blog is part 3 of a series documenting life in Bhutan in the form of a photograph journey, as I saw the country. The photographs in this blog are reduced in size for ease of download. All photographs are copyright of the author unless otherwise stated.
We visited a village school near Punakha town. Punakha, located in a valley is one of the towns at relatively low elevation. We took 1 hour 45 minutes to reach there, thanks to a wrong turn and bumpy roads. It would have taken an hour if we were on track.
Presenting gifts from Singapore to a Bhutan village school - books, eBooks and stationaries. This was followed by a dialogue between the school teachers and our delegation. Both sides learnt immensely from each other. We asked to have a look at some English composition by the children and were fairly impressed with the writings and poetries of grade 5 (11 year-old) students. English is used as the standard language for most of their textbooks. Teachers are all from Bhutan as well as from various parts of India.
Village school near Punakha town. The school's building is partly built by the Indian government, which also funded a computer laboratory with around 6 computers and provides IT lessons. The school takes in students from grades 1 to 9. The school has several buildings like this one. A new building was being added when we were there. Children would walk miles from farms to school every day.
Students in an middle primary class standing up to greet us. There are around 30 students in a class, one class per grade.
Young students seated neatly with folded arms awaiting instruction from the teacher. Students are generally well behaved.
A child's best friend. One of several dogs sleeping in the school. These dogs accompany their masters to school and wait there till school is dismissed. They then accompany the children home. Nice security escort!
We visited a private primary school in the capital city, Thimphu. A Singapore school, Xingnan primary had a delegation of teachers and students visiting them last year. Amongst its students is a girl whose mother is Singaporean.
Students performing in front of a princess to celebrate the anniversary of the King's visit to the school. I enjoyed their singing. A contest was earlier held for the best drawing of the King. The school is one of several private schools in the capital city, Thimphu. Fees are relatively inexpensive in private schools compared to developed countries, with fees under $100 a month per child.
A picture with the princess (in purple) and the owner of the private school (in green)
A classroom in the private school
Library in the private school
Our team and the workshop participants comprising mostly principals and vice principals of selected schools in capital city, Thimphu
Bhutanese are nearly all Buddhist. They practice Mahayana Buddhism, which orignates from Tibet. There are 4 major schools of Buddhism in Bhutan. Monks can either be celibate or can raise a family and work in the secular world.
Religion is pretty much integrated with daily lives. The dzongs or fortresses contain both administrative (government) offices as well as monasteries and living quarters for monks. Our tour guide said it is an honour for a family to have a monk. He aspires to be a monk one day, after a few more years of work as a tour guide. He turns religious every time we visit a temple.
The Punakha dzong, holding both an administration centre and a place of worship.
The temple inside the Punakha dzong
An old cypress tree, reputedly up to a thousand years old rises majestically in the Kychu Lhakhang temple near Paro town. Kychu Lhakhang, originally built in the 7th century is one of the oldest temple in Bhutan and an important Himalayan temple. Cypress is the official tree of Bhutan.
Cherry blossom in Kyichu Lhakhang temple.
Paryer wheels on the side of a temple wall. A mantra in Sanskrit is written on each wheel. Turning it is considered as meritorious as reciting the prayers.
The Tiger's Nest monastery locked in a steep and high mountain cliff. There are various buildings on the mountain. The cluster in this picture is the most well known and highly photographed. It takes good stamina to reach the monastery.
Close up of Tiger’s Nest. It was first built in 1692, destroyed by a fire in 1998 and rebuilt in 2005.
A young monk posing for us.
Monks in a row awaiting for the surprise arrival of the King at the Paro spring festiival