The education and skills development ministry declared the results of Class VIII and XII board examinations yesterday. By late evening, the excitement was clearly visible on social media pages. Schools, parents and teachers are congratulating the “toppers” and the performance (achievement) of the school.

It is perfectly fine to celebrate achievements. It is a moment for students, their parents and the school to feel happy if not boastful or a good marketing tool for some. It speaks volumes of the school, the teachers and the standard of education, as many like to believe.

For those who performed well in the Class XII examinations, it is a pathway to tertiary education, free of cost in our case, including government-sponsored higher studies outside the country. Some will receive scholarships to study abroad, some will go to colleges within the country, some might go to Canada or Australia, and some may drop out to find a job to repay their parents.  

What is important for all those who achieved good grades or those who failed to do so is the reality that not all high school students go to universities. It is true that the majority look for suitable jobs or skills training at different levels of high school and start careers. In most cases, many find careers that provide more satisfaction or achievement than a college education would. It is not the sour grapes story we know.

What we should convince our children and ourselves is that Class XII is not the end of the learning journey. In fact, more meaningful learning begins now. What we need to equip our children with is not theoretical knowledge but life skills that will prepare them to secure a future. We do not want all our Class XII graduates, for instance, to be civil servants, doctors or engineers. There are not enough openings for all of them.

What we need, and urgently, are the thousands of skilled jobs filled by expatriates. In the capital city, it is difficult to find a good plumber or an electrician to fix simple problems. Such skills are becoming more relevant given the trend of emigrating to developed countries where what we call blue collar jobs are equally respected and remunerated. An excavator operator in Australia, to put into context, earns twice the amount per hour than his friend with a Masters Degree working in a store. 

To the parents whose children failed or failed to score high, it is imperative to convince them and themselves that life does not end with the Class VIII, Class X, and Class XII common examinations. There are options all along the way.

What is important for both parents and the government is to realise that not all will become dashos or civil servants. There are many ways to etch out a livelihood, some better than being a civil servant, or to serve the country.

With the changes Bhutan and the world is going through, the opportunities are unlimited. Take for example the Gelephu Special Administrative Zone. We would need thousands of people doing different jobs to realise the vision. Those with skills will find a better opportunity than with grades. 

Meanwhile, if there is ever a reason to celebrate, let’s celebrate the 100 percent pass percentage of Sakteng Lower Secondary School, not because of its  remoteness, but for the many odds students overcame to give their best.