The policies of inclusion in Bhutan’s education system

Year: 2021

Author: Zangmo, Zinpai, Iyer, Radha, Tangen, Donna

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Bhutan’s national philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), introduced in the 1970’s, plays a major role in the education system of Bhutan. This philosophy acknowledges Buddhist beliefs of living in harmony through interdependence and finding self-contentment. The pillars of conservation of nature, socio-economic development, preservation of culture and good governance are mechanisms designed to achieve these attributes throughout social interactions at all levels of society. Since 2010 GNH has been institutionalised in schools as Educating for Gross National Happiness (EGNH) and is considered a holistic approach to education for the preservation of culture, respect, and inclusion.Alongside EGNH, Bhutan has introduced an Inclusive Education (IE) policy in 2017 targeting 19 schools for Special Educational Needs (SEN) students. The policy has western ideologies and proposes western knowledges of inclusive education, equal rights and responsibilities as mandated by the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). This study explores whether IE aligns with EGNH and the manner in which they align. The research question for this study is: What are the similarities and differences between IE and EGNH policies and how do these impact on education? Bourdieu’s triadic concepts of field, capital and habitus were applied to comprehend EGNH and IE. Field explores how hierarchical positioning of principals, teachers and students operate within the social space of EGNH and IE. Capital explores the individual and collective knowledges and experiences the school accumulates to facilitate duties as proposed by each policy and habitus explains how field and capital operationalise through school cultures. The policies were analysed using Braun and Clarke’s thematic analysis.The initial analysis indicated similarities within the two documents as to the purpose of education, the strategies needed to meet these educational targets and competencies required by principals and teachers for fulfilling their roles. The differences found were in the focus on values and culture, the approaches used in developing the policy documents and a focus on individual (IE) versus a collective national identity (EGNH).Findings: Findings indicate that there is an alignment in some respects between the two policies; however, significant aspects like the importance of values and cultures, respect and notions of inclusion which are central to EGNH are proposed differently in IE. The analysis indicates that a closer semantic and perspectival alignment are required to enable these documents to be implemented together successfully in schools.