Responding to Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT)’s statement that their pledges of doing away with class X cut off point and introducing breast feeding allowance to rural women are not doable, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) said these pledges are unconventional but feasible.
“So is making WiFi available for free,” said DNT president Lotay Tshering.
According to Lotay Tshering, most youth who are unemployed and using drugs are class X drop outs who could not qualify for higher education.
He said every year more than 5,000 students do not qualify for higher education and most of them are from economically challenged family backgrounds.
DNT wants to help students who have passed class X to continue with higher education.
“It will cost around Nu 0.5bn only. It is not a freebie to gain votes,” said Lotay Tshering.
However, General Secretary of DPT Sangay Phurba said it is against the Constitution.
The Article 9(16) of the Constitution states that the state shall provide free education to all children of school going age up to tenth standard and ensure that technical and professional education is made generally available and that higher education is equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
He said that every year the cutoff point increases because the infrastructure capacity in the government schools becomes less.
He said if it happens otherwise, private schools will be discouraged and they will not work hard to improve the quality of education. Because private schools will think that they will get students if the government gives scholarship and it will cost the government. “Though the intention is good, it is not doable,” he said.
Lotay Tshering also said from the total women giving birth, around 85% who are from the rural areas are busy with their daily work and have too low financial capacity making it difficult for them to give exclusive breast feeding to their babies.
He said right after the children are born, DNT plans to give allowance to rural women for six months. Every year around 12,000 babies are born and it would cost around Nu 0.5bn every year.
Once again the General Secretary of DPT, Sangay Phurba said that giving allowance to rural women will have many repercussions and there is a question of sustainability. “It is purely a freebie again. We have to look for sustainability,” he said.
An observer said that providing free education up to class Xll would not make much difference except that students would upgrade their qualification by one more grade.
However, he said that this means, all trainings and opportunities currently designed for class X graduates will end being taken by class Xll graduates. “This also means that those coming from disadvantaged families would remain still jobless and also would remain in class X because they would not be able to afford tertiary education.”
Another said that allowing everyone to reach class Xl without having to do the common exam meant the quality of education would be compromised. Further, if the government funds students in private schools, then private schools would have no pressure to maintain the quality they do now as they will get the money anyway.
Further, he said not all students who make it to class X currently are from poor family backgrounds. Many of them could in fact fund themselves. He said the government instead of allowing everyone to get into class XI without appearing the board exam should find ways to fund as many disadvantaged students to continue in private schools or allow them to repeat the course so that if they are good they can do well second time round.
Further, others were of the opinion that doing away with the present system and allowing students to pass through without cut off marks to higher grade will have implications such as government schools being crowded and the government would incur heavy budget constraints while private schools would suffer due to lack of enrollment and students would lack seriousness.
On allowance for rural women, some spoke of the implications like huge financial burden on the government since the current domestic revenue is hardly enough to meet the essential services cost. “With additional costs to the already tight financial system, the government may go bankrupt and incur heavy debt. Infrastructural development programs will suffer due to lack of funds. Also it will encourage unnecessary population boom that will exert huge social, environment and economic costs,” said an observer.
Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu