The educational blues and DPT promises

Published on Feb 28 2009 // News Analysis
By Sangay Oendrey

The result of the former royal governments to close down schools and stripping license for establishment of new colleges is increasing educations blues in the country in recent years. 

Children on the way to school

Not all children have access to education

For years, large number of young people subdued their yearn for education while many now are facing shortage in their hand of either money to afford or get a good percentage during examinations. 

Students acquiring less than first division are rarely admitted to government colleges. The limited numbers of seats are booked by influential people. The private colleges are too expensive for general people to afford. Additionally, they are few – exactly 12 – and concentrated in urban areas. 

Results of two levels – Grade X and XII – are recently published. The Royal University of Bhutan said it will take 30 percent of the total students who crossed grade XII. Similarly, government announced less than 40 percent of those passing grade X will get admission in state-run colleges. Around 50 percent of the remaining students cannot afford to study in private colleges. 

Kelhi Higher Secondary School in Thimphu said it received over 500 admission forms but the school can enroll only about 350 students who have scored 57 percent and above.

Nima and Rinchen Higher Secondary Schools in the capital are also taking in about 350 students each though the school administrations said they have received more admission forms than the available number of seats. Nima chooses students based on character certificates while Rinchen has demarcated 45 marks in English, Mathematics and Dzongkha as the criteria for admission.  

The recent decision of the University Council to establish an education college in the east will not address the education woes of the region immediately. The only option for students in the east is the first private higher secondary school in Mongar recently opened.

The Sherub Reldri higher secondary school at Yakgang, 2 km from main town, started by Lt Colonel (retd) Rinchen Thinley, will take some 500 students in this session in three disciplines – science, commerce and arts.

This leaves room for private colleges in urban areas face pressure for admission. The seat limitations imposed by the government paralyze these private schools in taking more students even those who can afford. They set the priority.

The students prefer urban colleges. That’s why the colleges in district get less student turn out during admission time. Sonam Kuenphen Higher Secondary School never had more than 200 students till date and the Prince Namgyal Wangchuk Academy in Zhemgang will have around 40 students this year. 

Education Ministry: IS Thakur Singh equipped enough to address the woes

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Kuendrup Higher Secondary School opened in Gelephu from 2008 and Reldri Higher Secondary School in Phuentsholing too falls prey to inadequate students. 

Like in the Citizenship Act which says a mentally unsound person cannot obtain Bhutanese citizenship, the increasing woes in Bhutanese education has reflected the situation that poor students have no future in their country. 

The woes lie not only in higher education but at its root as well. After years of sufferings under the direct rule of King Jigme Singye, people especially in south began to feel diminishing suffocation for educating their children. The government discouraged education in south. For instance Kuendrup HSS in Gelephu waited for almost four years to get a license. 

The new government has announced re-opening schools that are closed after 1990. Nichula and Deurali geogs under Lhamoizingkha Dungkhag in Dagana district will soon get new community schools. The only school existed in the district Lhamoizingkha Lower Secondary School accommodated only a few children from the geog every year. Children from well off families went to study outside and others attended the Non-Formal Education. Many children had no choice but to remain at home. 

However, the new schools in southern district would be like gathering of the villagers without any formal school infrastructure. The students need to learn on the ground, under the sky. 

Shortage of schools is only one of the multiple problems of Bhutanese education system. The schools do not have enough teachers in rural areas while in urban, they have access. The recent government initiative for contract teachers under LIGHT DRUK YUL campaign will be a petite measure to cure the suffering. Establishment of a new education college in east will ease further, not enough.

The enrollment in the two teachers colleges has been 1200 students for the last five years and they have trained some 5,339 teachers. Not many teachers prefer to go remote areas citing reasons like lack of road access, electricity, and teaching facilities. To address this problem, the Education Ministry has formed a committee to identify suitable strategies to motivate and retain them in rural areas leaving enough rooms to speculate the sustainability of the educational institutions in these areas.  There are currently over 6,000 teachers with over 100,000 students in the country.

Of many promises that DPT had given during the election, educational opportunity is one. The one year of it in administration has yield nothing but expectations from the people are in decreasing trend that DPT government under the leadership of Jigmi Thinley, who already tied matrimonial relations with royal family, will deliver what it had promised.