Award helps to improve education assessment in Bhutan

Published 27 April 2009

phubrinchen21An internationally competitive award from the Australian Government is allowing a senior Bhutanese education official to conduct research at the University of New England that will help in the development of Bhutan’s national education assessment program.

Dr Phub Rinchen (pictured here), Secretary of the Bhutan Board of Examinations, is spending four months in UNE’s School of Education, where his research is preparing him to coordinate a National Education Assessment in literacy and numeracy for Grade 6 students throughout Bhutan in November.

Dr Rinchen’s visit to UNE, which is funded by an Australian Government Endeavour Award, is the most recent development in a long-standing relationship between the University and Bhutan’s Ministry of Education. This relationship began in 1992 with the Bhutanese Multigrade Attachment Program which, over a period of about 15 years, enabled teachers at small, remote schools in Bhutan to receive specialised training at UNE. Dr Rinchen studied at UNE as a part-time student from 1992, graduating with a Doctor of Education degree in 2001.

In 2003 he coordinated Bhutan’s first National Education Assessment for Grade 6 literacy and numeracy, and the assessment in November will be the second. While at UNE he will be working closely with academics in the School of Education, and he will also spend some time in Sydney working with the Educational Measurement and School Assessment Directorate of the NSW Department of Education and Training.

Professor Len Unsworth, Head of UNE’s School of Education, said that Dr Rinchen’s visit “further consolidates the very strong relationship between us and our Bhutanese colleagues”.

“Our staff members will have the opportunity to interact with a very high-ranking education official from Bhutan,” Professor Unsworth said. “Having an experienced person from a different culture cast a critical eye over our assessment practices will provide us with important feedback.”

“Over the years, we’ve learnt a lot from each other,” Dr Rinchen said. “When we were setting up the Royal University of Bhutan a few years ago, UNE was one of our models. Our ties continue to strengthen, and there are many avenues for future collaboration between UNE and the Bhutan Ministry of Education and the Royal University of Bhutan.”

He pointed out that Australia and Bhutan both have many rural communities with small schools, and said he had visited many such schools in NSW.

Dr Rinchen arrived at UNE on the 1st of March and will return to Bhutan at the end of June.  “I feel highly honoured – as well as privileged – to have this opportunity of a professional development program, sponsored by the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, to improve national education assessment in Bhutan,” he said. “I am also highly indebted to UNE’s School of Education for hosting the program; the support from the University, and Associate Professor Tom Maxwell (my supervisor), is excellent.”

The Endeavour Awards program provides opportunities for citizens of the Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Europe and the Americas to undertake study, research and professional development in Austrlaia. Awards are also available for Australians to do the same abroad.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Dr Phub Rinchen displayed here expands to include Professor Len Unsworth (right) and Associate Professor Tom Maxwell.