Private schools worried about sustainability and closure

Education Minister Jai Bir Rai says that they did not make an irrational decision in order to destroy private schools

The government’s decision to absorb all the Class XI students after the announcement of Class X results for this year has left many private schools worried about their sustainability.

According to the Principal of Utpal Academy in Paro, Chogyal Tenzin, many private schools around the country will have to close business and hundreds of employees in the private schools would be laid off from 2023 onwards.
“A pandemic of a different kind for us is looming large on the horizon,” he said.

However, Education Minister Jai Bir Rai said that they did not make an irrational decision in order to destroy private schools.

“If the failure percentage for Class X students was 5% like last year, we would have booked approximately 2,000 places in private schools for Class XI students this year,” he said, adding that the calculation had changed this year because the failure rate for Class X students was nearly around 20% to 30%.

The minister said that the higher failure rate this year caused the Class X failed students to repeat Class X.

“We have around 11,000 vacant seats for the Class XI students in government schools and only 9,000 have passed, so the government schools will be able to absorb all the students in government schools only,” the minister added.

In 2019, the government decided to do away with the cut-off mark in order to prevent any student from being detained because of merit-based competition. The number of students enrolling in the private schools has decreased dramatically since the decision.

Despite the decision, many students were unable to be absorbed in government schools due to infrastructure constraints. Therefore in 2021, Class X pass students studied in private schools under the government scholarship with 2,088 students receiving government assistance.

With the government’s recent decision, according to a proprietor of a private school, there will be a lot of bad consequences, and those working in private schools, notably instructors, will be jobless and unemployed.

A proprietor of a private high school in Thimphu said, “It is irresponsible of the education ministry to take this decision without considering all the consequences. The ministry must take full responsibility of these teachers if and when the private schools close. ”

He added that the government has not given private schools even the courtesy of informing them of this proposal.

“As late as the second half of April, private schools were informed that students would be admitted like last year. Everything changed after the disastrous performance of Class X students this year,” he added.

According to the principal of Pelkhil School, the decision by the government to absorb all the students in the government schools should have been taken gradually and in a slow manner so that the private schools are given enough to find some alternatives.

He added that eventually the teachers and staff of the private schools are the victims of this situation.

The proprietor of another private school in Thimphu said, “Although the government has not officially asked us to shut down, their action is clear.”

“Because of students, schools and teachers are there. When students are not there in schools, the sustainability of private schools would be impossible,” he added.

Meanwhile, a teacher of a private school said, “When the number of enrollment decreases, definitely the effect comes to the teachers and staff, who will ultimately lose their job.”

He added that private schools’ teachers are also equally and well trained, and who are working hard to shape the future of many youths.

During the Meet-the-Press session yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the situation is unchanged and that the government will continue to grant scholarships to students in private schools if the government schools are unable to accommodate all students. 

“This year is different because of the high failure rate; however, the government will continue to send students to private schools if government schools are unable to accept all of the students in the future,” Lyonchhen added.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu