Starting this academic session, all class X students who pass the board examination will be enrolled in class XI, the education minister JB Rai clarified, amid confusions surrounding the cut-off points.

However, with the decision, it is still unclear whether the cut off point for class X students stays or not.

In a way, it stays because enrolment into public schools would be still merit based, which could require a certain criteria and score. In another way, the cut-off point is considered removed because all students who pass the examination will be admitted into class XI. The existing pass mark is 35 percent and Kuensel has learnt that given the change in policy, this may be revisited.

The education conference last month resolved to keep the cut-off point and include another stream on TVET by 2020 academic session. Education officials say the conference resolutions are binding. This week, the education minister announced at the national assembly that the government has decided to do away with the Class X cut-off point from this academic session.

These announcements have caused confusion especially among students and parents who are anxious of the class X results, likely to be declared anytime soon.

Lyonpo J B Rai, however, insists that there is no confusion on the issue. The cut-off point, he explained, is nothing to do with quality but one that is fixed depending on the facilities available in government schools. “I said all class X pass students will go to class XI, those who can’t be absorbed in government schools will be enrolled in private schools and that the government would bear the expense.”

According to the annual education statistics, 2017, 11,794 candidates sat for the Bhutan Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (BCSE), class X in December 2017. Of these, 11,251 passed the examination, which is a pass percentage of 96.2 percent. Of those who passed, 8,711 were admitted to Class XI in 2018, 54.2 percent in public schools and 22.9 percent in private schools. About 7.1 percent are admitted in TTIs & IZCs.

The remaining 15.8 percent, the report states, could be either continuing their education in private institutes within or outside Bhutan or could have joined the labour force, or repeating the grade as full time students and supplementary candidates.

Lyonpo JB Rai said the government’s pledge is for those who do not score the cut-off point. “If it is just about fulfilling the pledge, we could have brought down the cut off point but then that would still leave out a section of the students.”

The minister said there is a difference between the cut-off point and the pass mark that students need to score to be promoted to class XI. Those who fail could repeat, he said.

With the education minister’s announcement, about 45.8 percent who are not admitted in public schools would now have an option to take up the opportunity the government is offering and sponsoring.

The ruling party, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) had pledged to do away with cut-off point for Class X students, and enable all to proceed to Class XI.”

“The present system of cut-off point in Class X will be removed to allow students to continue until class XII. Raising the basic education to Class XII will save numerous issues for our youth,” the party manifesto states.

During the campaign, this pledge was among the most debated issues. The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, who is now in the Opposition, had called the raising of basic education to class XII unconstitutional.

At the on-going national assembly session, the opposition claimed that it did not have the time to ask follow up questions to the education minister after he announced that all students who pass class X would be enrolled in class XI in government and private schools. “Now the announcement has thrown everyone into confusion,” an opposition member said.

In an earlier interview, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that the pass mark for class X is 35 percent while an entry to class XI requires a score of 57- 60 percent. Students who fall between 35 percent and 60 percent are called class 10 “pass out” and negatively, as class X dropouts, he said.

“I find this very unfair and these people are just about 15- 16-years-old. I find it very bad from social and legal point of view to ask a 15 year-old-girl to look for a job,” Lyonchhen said. “The age of maturity is 18 years and a 15 year-old cannot sign a legal document but they are hopping from office to office looking for a job and as they get it, they sign and enter the job market.”

Youth at this age are still maturing and all should be given an opportunity to study. Allowing all children to go to class XI is the party’s pledge and one that is keeping with changing times.

“We are working on this very seriously and we want to make sure this is done from this academic session,” he said. “How will we decide? I don’t find it fair to call 35 percent achievers as pass; it is a joke and we have to raise the pass mark,” he said. “But we will ensure that this will not hamper quality.”

Education secretary Karma Yeshey said the ministry would share the details on the cut-off point decision with the people on January 23 after the cabinet discussion on January 22.

Sonam Pelden