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28 March 2012
Bhutan: Reaching the Unreached

PLS in Dewathang Gewog of Samdrup Jongkhar District in Eastern Bhutan
One of the major projects that HiWEL is in the process of executing is for the Royal Government of Bhutan. The project is part of a large Indo-Bhutan project formally known as the Chiphen Rigpel (broadly meaning 'Enabling a society, Empowering a nation'). Chiphen Rigpel is an ambitious project designed to empower Bhutan to become a Knowledge-based society. As part of Chiphen Rigpel project, HiWEL is in the process of setting up more than 130 Playground Learning Stations (PLS) all across Bhutan.

Hon. PM at the Esu Gewog PLS in Haa District
On 29th December 2011, the Hon. Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigmi Y Thinley, inaugurated the HiWEL PLS at Esu Gewog of Haa Dzongkhag of Bhutan in presence of his cabinet colleagues. While addressing the citizens, the Hon. Prime Minister emphasized the usefulness of HiWEL PLS for children, and appealed the community to make maximum possible use of the PLS. This inauguration marked the end of the first phase of implementation of the project, in which HiWEL has commissioned 50 Playground Learning Stations spread across all the Dzongkhags (districts) of Bhutan.

GNH: An indicator that measures quality of life in more holistic terms
The objective behind setting up the Learning Stations is to build the computer literacy among children by providing free access to computers and positively impacting the outcomes of elementary education. With this project, HiWEL ultimately hopes to positively impact the Gross National Happiness (GNH), which the most prominent metric used by the Government of Bhutan to measure Bhutan's development.

Executing the Chiphen Rigpel project is an exciting challenge for HiWEL as Bhutan has a difficult terrain and scattered communities. The population is fairly young and it's their first encounter with ICT in education. The main highlights of the Bhutan project are:

  • 131 HiWEL Learning Stations spread across all 20 Dzongkhags, including some of the most remote and underdeveloped parts of Bhutan.
  • E-Learning content for the project finalized with the co-operation of the Education Department, Government of Bhutan. The Education Department has also provided local language content for the Learning Stations.
  • Development of a localised interface software for the Learning Stations. This interface, which is interest-based and in Dzongkha (the local language), is expected to make the process of content exploration more intuitive for the children.
  • Development of HiWEL-specific impact assessment instruments in collaboration with the Bhutan Board of Education.
  • New initiatives pilots in Bhutan including Children-created Content.

PLS in Bjena Gewog in Wangdue Phodrang District in Central Bhutan
HiWEL believes that provided the opportunity and correct environment the children will be self motivated to learn and grow. The challenges of difficult terrain and scattered population will not be hindrance for HiWEL to reach the needy and impart quality education. HiWEL through its innovative and user friendly mode of non-formal education will definitely contribute in the sustainable and holistic development of the children of Bhutan.

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