Adequate and up-to-date facilities in schools influence the quality of education and students’ performance.

A study carried out in Tennessee, USA, found growing evidence of a correlation between the adequacy of a school facility and student behaviour and performance. “Building a school infrastructure is different from building an office infrastructure. The school infrastructure not only has to be functional and economical, but it also has to give a sense of self-worth to the students,” the report stated.

Against this backdrop, the education ministry in its recent annual education statistics has assessed facilities such as drinking water, sanitation, laboratories, road, internet connectivity and electricity among others in schools.

“Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in schools can have a significant positive impact on children’s health and education outcomes,” the education statistics stated.

It was reported that in 2018, about 87 percent of schools including ECRs in the country have access to an improved water source such as piped water supply and protected spring. However, 7.4 percent of schools source water from unprotected spring and 5.6 percent of the schools reported not having improved water source.

All schools except for lower secondary schools meet the national standard of the student to tap ratio of 1:50.

There is also still a significant number of schools without enough water supply. Some 46 percent of ECRs, 69 percent of primary and lower secondary schools and 77 percent of higher secondary schools reported having a water supply for five to seven days a week.   

For sanitation needs, education statistics reveal that 36 percent of the schools do not have sufficient water for cleaning toilets.

“All schools in the country have at least a basic toilet,” the report stated. About 80.5 percent of schools reported having decent sanitation facilities while still, about 11.5 percent reported using pit toilets. ECRs and primary schools have the highest use of pit toilets.

Boys’ toilet ratio in all schools meets the national standard of 1 toilet compartment for every 40 boys except for middle secondary schools, where the ratio is 1 toilet compartment for every 42 boys. However, girls’ toilets in lower, middle and higher secondary schools do not meet the national standard of 1 toilet compartment for every 25 girls.

While the laboratory is one of the basic minimum facilities, there are schools without one. A general laboratory is a minimum requirement for Classes VII and VIII, while classes IX and above require separate laboratories for Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. A computer laboratory is also required for classes VII and above.

Only 64 out of 308 public primary schools have a general laboratory while no private primary and lower secondary schools have a lab.

About 205 public schools and 28 private schools have computers. However, only 46 out of 308 public primary schools have computers. This, according to education statistics is because most of these schools are located in remote places, and some do not have access to electricity.

As of 2018, the average computer per student is one computer per 23 students. On internet connectivity in schools, about 94 percent of private schools and 51 percent of the public schools are connected with internet.

Electricity, telecommunication facilities and access to motorable roads are also considered important for effective management and communication.

About 88 percent of schools have access to electricity. All higher and middle secondary schools have electricity connection. However, about 12 percent of the primary schools still do not have electricity connection.

About 80 percent of schools (including ECRs) have access to the road. Some schools in Gasa, Samtse, Haa, Chhukha, Zhemgang and Trongsa do not have road connection.

As per the Bhutan Living Standards Survey, (BLSS) 2017, the educational expense per student was seen to be increasing with the level of education. It is estimated 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 Nu 23,879 at the higher secondary level. There is a marked disparity in educational expenses between urban and rural areas at all educational levels.

At the primary level, the educational expenses per student in the urban areas are about twice the amount spent in rural areas. The least disparity is observed at the lower secondary level, where the spending for a student in an urban area is about 34 percent higher than a rural area.

Tshering Dorji