Although six years is the official minimum age for entering primary school, 42 percent of the population aged six years and above do not have education according to the Bhutan Living Standards Survey (BLSS) 2017.

Sixty-six percent of the population aged six years and above are literate. Literacy rate is substantially high in urban areas (81.7%) than in rural areas (58.3%).

According to the report, about 73 percent of the male population are literate as compared to 59 percent of the females.

Going by the dzongkhag, general literacy rate ranges from 46 percent in Wangdue to 85 percent in Bumthang. Gelephu Thromde with 85.4 percent has the highest literacy rate among four thromdes. Samdrupjongkhar has the lowest.

When it comes to national literacy rates, male constitute 69 percent and female 51 percent. The report says that a large difference in literacy rate was found between the urban and rural adults with 78 percent and 51 percent respectively. Urban youth literacy rate is 97 percent.

Forty-five percent of population above two years has never attended formal school or institutes, 27 percent are currently attending, and 28 percent had attended in the past.

About half the females (59.9 percent) has never attended formal school or institute as compared to 40 percent of male.

The current school attendance (6-22 years) rate is 80 percent. Attendance rate decreases with the increase in age.

And as per the survey, seven out of 10 persons are in school or have attended school in the past in urban areas as compared to only four out of 10 in rural areas.

The survey revealed that about 60.5 percent of the students across the country walk to schools while about 7 percent of the students use their family cars. Only 4 percent go to school by public transport and school bus.

Majority of the male children do not attend the school due to disability (37.8 percent) followed by age, which means they are either too old or young to attend school. A higher proportion of female children also do not attend school due to age followed by disability.

In rural areas, 29.1 percent of male children responded that they were not interested in education while 22.6 percent of the female children responded that they did not qualify.

However, both the Gross Attendance Ratio (GAR) and the Net Attendance Ratio (NAR) are higher at the lower levels of education than at the higher levels.

GAR is defined as the total number of students attending school at a given level of education, irrespective of their age, to the total number of children in the age group specified for that level of education. NAR is the total number of students in a specific age group who are currently attending school at a particular level.

The survey also collected information about the educational expenses incurred in the previous academic year by students in the country. The survey showed that the average amount spent is Nu 5,259 at the primary level, Nu 4,885 at the lower-secondary level, Nu 5,708 at the middle-secondary level and a much higher Nu 23,879 at the higher secondary level.

Yangchen C Rinzin