Monasteries once provided the only education in Bhutan and continue to provide excellent classical Buddhist philosophical study programs. But the lack of practical secular education has created a division between the monks and the society they are there to serve. Great potential exists for the monastic community to help the Bhutanese through common contemporary issues such as alcoholism, materialism, changes in family structures, depression and fear. But they must understand the world around them in order to help those who are caught in negative patterns. It is also understood that not all monastics will remain within the system; once they leave, they have few options to make a livelihood.
By providing monks with knowledge and skills that compliment their traditional studies, that they can have a positive influence as models and leaders of the community. To that end, a new secular curriculum for monks will be implemented at Chokyi Gyatso Institute (CGI) in Dewathang, East Bhutan, beginning in 2013 under the auspices of the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative (SJI). We will be teaching them with the latest in progressive education techniques, project-based, inquiry-based, integrated, and designed to foster a sense of interdependance, responsibility, dignity of labor and pride of home.
After a six-month English intensive course that begins January 2012, one Bhutanese teacher and one western counterpart will be hired to teach a 24-part progressive curriculum over the next four years under the supervision of LME. A designated classroom at the monastery will be equipped with resource materials and computers for the monks to use throughout their studies.
Chokyi Gyatso Institute has already started serving as an example to the community by becoming the first "zero waste" monastery, banning plastics and using traditional methods of gardening.
Secular education at CGI is just one of four pilots that Lho Mon is incubating. We need to equip CGI's classroom so that we can get the greatest benefit out of the experiment. After this pilot, we will share the CGI curriculum with monasteries seeking secular education around the globe.