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Report on 4th Seminar in the Bhutan Seminar Series 2021


At the fourth event in the Bhutan Seminar Series, held on September 25, 2021, we watched the WAVE documentary on Bhutan entitled “The children of the ‘happy country’: Report from Bhutan,” which was accompanied by an explanation, commentary, and Q&A session. The commentator was Kanako Sawada, formerly a JICA Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer and now housemaster for the women’s dormitory at the Shimane Prefectural Oki-Dozen Senior High School.

Image 1: A primary school morning assembly

Before the documentary, Mr. Takehiro Hirayama from the Global Collaboration Center explained the places that appear in the video and Bhutan’s schools and education system. He also told us what points to watch for in the video.

Through the video, we learned about the unique education guidelines pursued in Bhutan in line with the government’s Gross National Happiness (GNH) policy, as well as the support provided by UNICEF and other international institutions. Particularly striking scenes included the principal persuading parents to send their children to school, how the children who were going to school acted at home, and the children’s journey to school.

Image 2: Ms. Sawada explains her work in Bhutan

In the second half of the seminar, Ms. Sawada provided a commentary based on her experience of teaching physical education and art at a school in the Mongar District in eastern Bhutan. Her insights from living in Bhutan and interacting with the locals, as well as the differences between the education situation shown in the video and what Ms. Sawada had observed, drew many questions from participants.

After the seminar, Ms. Sawada kindly gave up around 40 minutes of her time for a lively Q&A session that addressed gender disparities in Bhutan today, the linguistic map of multilingual Bhutan, and school enrolment and retention rates (the latter comprising the ratio of children who enrolled in the first year of primary education who are still in school by a certain grade).

Responding to the post-seminar questionnaire, one participant felt they had learned about a region on which there is very little information on the Internet; another hoped that future seminars would have the same relaxed atmosphere as this one; while another felt that they had learned about the issues facing Bhutan. In terms of future seminar content, participants said that they would like to delve deeper into Bhutan’s national finances, tourism, and the language situation, etc.

(Rinka Yamashima, first-year student, Department of Psychology,
Faculty of Human Life and Environmental Sciences)

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