A commentary on the chapter on ‘Government’ for the Class V Social Studies
By Sonam Kinga
Our text books are littered with mistakes. Spellings, facts, grammar and much more! This is unacceptable! We cannot teach children using text books containing such errors.
Take the following page for example. In every paragraph, there are errors of all kinds imaginable. I will comment on the first four paragraphs. I will not even concern myself here to comment on the errors of spellings, grammar and syntax but merely on facts!
Text: “In the past, our country was a monarchy.”
Commentary: Bhutan is still a monarchy today, not just in the past. This sentence draws a comparison with the present as if to suggest we are not a monarchy today.
Text: “Bhutan became a Parliamentary Democratic Monarchy in 2008.”
Commentary: Bhutan became a parliamentary democracy in 2008. The form of government is a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy. The usage of the words “Parliamentary Democratic Monarchy” is incorrect!
Text: “Our King is the head of our country.”
Commentary: It is better to introduce the idea that His Majesty the King is the head of state. The fact that the Prime Minister is the head of the government is anyway mentioned in the next paragraph.
Text: “He is helped by the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers.”
Commentary: This seems to suggest that the King governs the country as head of government, and that the Prime Minister and ministers only help the King in governance. The King reigns whereas the Prime Minister and ministers govern. This distinction has to be clearly articulated to our students.
Text: “The Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers are supported by the members of parliament who are elected by the people from various constituencies (demkhongs).”
Commentary: This is not correct! The sentence suggests that the parliament is an extension of the government, and presents the parliament to the students as if it were like civil service to support the government.
Members of parliament make laws, perform oversight and check and balance functions vis-a-vis the government and represent their constituencies. They may or may not support government bills and policies. That is subject to debate and voting in parliament. So, it is incorrect to teach students as if the main job of parliamentarians is to support the government. It is better to re-write the sentence thus, “The Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers are supported by the civil servants who work in different ministries, departments and autonomous agencies.”
Text: “The King, the Prime Minister, the Cabinet Ministers and the Members of Parliament and Opposition Party form the Central Government.”
Commentary: How wrong can one be! His Majesty the King is the head of state, and also one of the institutions of parliament. Members of Parliament and Opposition Party do not form the central government. There are members of ruling party in the Parliament. But members of ruling party are not part of the central government. They are part of the parliament. How can the opposition party be part of the central government?
Text: “There are 25 representatives to the National Council (Gyalwong Tshogde) and 47 Members of Parliament (Gyalyong Tshogdu). They are the members of National Assembly.”
Commentary: “Two different spellings are used to translate the word ‘national’ – gyalwong and gyalyong. Young students could believe that they must indeed be spelt differently. Members of Parliament refer to members of both National Council and National Assembly. Here, it is taught that Members of Parliament mean members of National Assembly.
Text: “The Prime Minister and the 10 Cabinet Ministers are elected from the Members of the National Assembly.”
Commentary: In the National Assembly, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are elected from amongst the members. Indeed the Prime Minister and ministers must be elected members of National Assembly but they are not elected by the members of National Assembly. It is the political party who decides on the Prime Minister and ministers. Leader or nominee of the ruling party becomes the Prime Minister. Ministers are appointed by His Majesty the King on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Candidates for ministers are nominated by the Executive Committee of the ruling party.
Text: “The Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers serve for a term of five years. They cannot serve for more than two terms.”
Commentary: Wrong! Only the Prime Minister cannot serve as Prime Minister for more than two terms. But the cabinet ministers can serve any number of term as long as they are elected by the constituencies and nominated by the Executive Committee and recommended by the Prime Minister. Even a Prime Minister who have served two terms can still serve as a minister or member of parliament if he or she is elected and thus nominated.
I would like to highlight two sentences from the chapter on the judiciary.
Text: “Now laws are made by the National Assembly or Gyalwong Tshodu Chenmo. The Members of Parliament help the King to make new laws for our country.”
Commentary: First, the spelling mistake is too conspicuous! Gyalwong for gyalyong and Tshodu for Tshogdu. The official name is not Gyalyong Tshogdu Chenmo. This was the name for the earlier National Assembly which was dissolved in 2007. The suffix Chhenmo is not added for Gyalyong Tshogdu or Gyalyong Tshogde, which are called thus.
It is not just the National Assembly, which makes laws as stated in the first sentence. Laws are made by two Houses of Parliament and passed upon the granting of royal assent. The second sentence suggest that His Majesty the King is the main institution of making laws and that the parliament only helps. His Majesty grants royal assent to laws passed by two houses. However, His Majesty can send messages to the two Houses of Parliament.
(Note: The first edition of the text book from which the following page is drawn was published in 1992 and then the second edition in 2002. Thereafter, it has been revised twice, in 2009 and 2012. When it was reprinted in 2013, the foreword to the text book was still in the name of ‘Thinley Gyamtsho, Director General, Department of Education’. Lyonpo Thinley Gyamtsho had already served as the Minister of Education. He was the Chairperson of Royal Civil Service Commission by 2013. Even such facts were either overlooked or ignored.
By the way, the Royal Education Council is working diligently to revise and improve our curriculum. This is much appreciated! The National Council is also conducting an exhaustive review of education including issues related to curriculum)