The cost of removing the cut off point

The government will spend Nu 150mn a year to fund the schooling of over 4,000 class X students absorbed in private schools

The government will spend anywhere from Nu 140mn to 150mn in a year to sponsor the education of 4,225 class X students who will be enrolled in private schools.

A total of 12,033 students graduated from Class X this year, of which 4,225 of them will be enrolled in private schools. The government will bear the full scholarship of the private school students.

At the Meet the Press yesterday, Prime Minister Dr. LotayTshering said that the government has to bear modest expenses for the private school students amounting to Nu 140mn to 150mn a year.

“Providing full scholarship to youth aged 15-16 years will cost the government now but in the long run, the human resources will prove an asset,” said Lyonchhen.

“Yearly, 4,000 to 5,000 youth enter the job market and those who fail to continue their higher education add onto it,” said Lyonchhen.

The Prime Minister said that the time that should be spent in studying should not be compromised in the labor market. “Youths should be in schools and colleges studying not in labor market at this age.”

He added that till now the authorities have been investing in direct employment schemes and providing temporary jobs, which are in vain and do not contribute to the employment scenario long term.

Opposition MP from Dramedtse Ngatshang, Ugyen Wangdi, said during the Opposition party’s press conference on Thursday that it is against the Constitution to support children up to more than Class X. “The Constitution should be respected and strictly followed. Some day there will be parties that will pledge to provide free education up to college level but we have to look at country’s economic status as well,” he said.

However, Lyonchhen said that the Constitution is respected and considered at all times to come. “If what the government is doing against the law, the government is ready to drop it,” he added. 

Lyonchhen cited Article 9 of the Constitution, which 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.

The Prime Minister said that students are enrolled on the basis of merit and thus, this move is not against the Constitution. Only students who score 59.4% and above are eligible to join public schools.

Education focal person from the Opposition, MaenbiTsenkhar MP, ChokiGyeltshen, said that if there is no cut off point, all students who scored pass mark should be in government schools and not private schools.

While the Prime Minister said that due to time constraints, the government was able to create only a specific number of seats in the government schools. “If the government can take up similar numbers of students every year, after three to four years all the Class X pass-outs can be enrolled in government schools easily.”

Additionally, the Prime Minister said that private schools will be instructed to improve quality of education and infrastructure and to work for optimal results.

However, ChokiGyeltshen questioned about the quality of education in the schools and the fact that now students would just aim for the pass mark.

Lyonchhen said that the class X cut off point is not to maintain quality education but it was there because then government schools did not have the capacity to absorb all the students who passed Class X and met the pass percentage.

 “We will not compromise the standard of teacher-student ratio standardized by Ministry of Education,” said Lyonchhen, “Allowing class X students to study in class XI will absolutely not affect the quality of education.”    

The Education Minister, JB Rai, said that since Bhutan is already on its way to graduate from least developed country to middle income group, it is high time for the country to accept the paradigm shift in the system. “If students exceed the ratio which is against the policy, the ministry will provide additional teachers. Sufficient budget is kept to enroll these students and to provide the materials required.” 

The World Bank’s Bhutan development report January 2019 states that the government’s investment on education increased from 5.1% of GDP in 2013 to 6.7% in 2016.

Comparatively, Bhutan’s spending on education is higher than neighboring countries. This shows significant government commitment to investment in human capital. In the education sector, the key initiatives undertaken by the government includes teacher professional development and skills development. “Despite these laudable investments and reforms, available jobs remain vacant, while educated youth remain unemployed,” states the report.

Phub Dem from Thimphu