Private schools question the quality of education

A proprietor claims that student’s academic performance is declining as the government is squeezing more than the ideal number of students into one classroom

As students begin to prepare for higher learning after the announcement of the class X results, private schools within the country who have been hoping for some respites are pushed against the wall, and most to the extent of closure.

The conditions for this have been created as officials from the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) say that there is enough infrastructure to house all who have got through the class X examinations in government schools.

However, stakeholders from the private schools argue it is not true and that the government is instead compromising on the quality of education, by squeezing more students than what should ideally be there in a classroom.

Speaking to the paper, an official from the MoESD said the government has the capacity to get all students in government schools. “Looking at the capacity, we do have enough capacity to accommodate all the students in the government schools,” he said, adding that with most government middle schools around the country being upgraded to high schools, there will not be any lack of infrastructure.

When asked if the government would send a certain percentage of the students to private schools, the official responded that it was unlikely as they have not yet received any directives on the matter and that the government made such decisions on a case-by-case basis. Last year some students were enrolled in private schools on government scholarships. 

However, private school owners in the country do not agree with what the ministry has to say. Instead, the proprietor of one of the private schools in Thimphu said, “Whether the private schools die or survive is not the issue here, but students learning well.” He also added that there are “definitely possibilities” that there would be a shortage of seats as around 4,000 students failed last year in class X.

“So, this year, the number appearing for the exam would have been about 17,000 but for some reason, there were even fewer students who appeared,” he said, adding that around 30% of the student failed. He based his argument on the results. Out of 10,611 registered candidates, 7519 students passed the examinations with 2,986 failing the exam. Overall the pass percentage is 71.58% which is an increase of 1.46% over the 70.12% pass percentage of 2021.

Additionally, one of the principals of a private school, who has been unemployed due to the closure of the school said, that just because there is enough seat for class XI students, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be any problems in the classrooms.

He stated that this year, close to 3,000 failed students are still enrolled in their schools. This means that they must increase the number of class X sections just to accommodate the failed students, which will require a significant number of additional classrooms. “Where will these students be housed,” he questioned.

Meanwhile, another private school owner said. “Our government’s school system definitely has a shortage of classrooms, and this shortage has been forcefully covered by creating congestion in all classrooms from class PP upwards and this is particularly true for the urban schools.”

He added that the massive failure rates in classes X and VIII are only making it worse and that all the ministry does to cover the shortage is “simply by buying more tables and chairs and squeezing them into existing classrooms.”

“But this would be a total failure of keeping up the standard. MoESD should not allow more than 24 students per classroom in primary and 32 students in secondary schools. In reality, they have closer to 40-50 students,” he said.

He further added that students’ academic performance is declining, which is mainly due to crowded classrooms in primary schools.

Meanwhile, as per sources, close to 11 private schools have already shut down or are on the verge of closing down.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu