Phub Dem

As schools and students prepare for the board examinations, Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji yesterday said that the government asked the education ministry to wait until January 30 for further directives.

The minister, who is a member of the National Covid-19 Taskforce, said that the board examinations would depend on how the Covid-19 situation unfolds.

The education ministry’s decision to conduct exams in a containment zone was considered as there were not many active cases in the past weeks. However, the minister said that within a week, the number of positive cases spiked, and it was unsure if there were community cases in Thimphu as tests were underway.

Besides, he said there is a higher risk of transmissibility if all the students were crowded together, which is why the government has held the education ministry’s plan for now.

In order to reduce movement, the government is exploring ways to facilitate exams in schools in the dzongkhag where they reside currently provided there are no community cases by January 30. “We’re trying every way to minimise travel and facilitate the exam in the dzongkhags.”

However, if the situation doesn’t improve, he said that there was no other way than to defer the examination.

The Ministry of Education on January 22 issued a notification to conduct the board exams for Classes X and XII as scheduled from February 14 to 28  and asked schools to operate in self-containment zones immediately.

The notification asked dzongkhag and thromdes to make necessary arrangements for students to take the examination, such as boarding schools to admit day scholars as borders immediately. All day schools should make necessary arrangements like hostels and kitchen facilities to accommodate students on campus.

Parents expressed concerns over the decision stating risks of transmission and travel hassle, among others.

The Opposition Party also suggested the government postpone the board examinations stating that going ahead with the board examinations would cause “excruciating logistical inconveniences and challenges” to both the teachers and students, as they are to operate in containment mode.

Expressing concern over logistical issues, mental wellbeing and risk of transmission, the People’s Democratic Party issued a press release yesterday suggesting the government allow day students to take up board exams from home. The notification states that smart scheduling of exam timetables, practical covid protocol and stringent monitoring of students movement from home and exam locations would save all the hassles of creating containment centres and avoid dangers of the spread in confined spaces.

It states the government may also explore options of conducting the board exam for classes X and XII at separate times to prevent crowding. “The education ministry may also consider doing away with the board exam of class X as the cut off point has been done away with.”

PDP also proposed the government postpone the exam by about a month to set up decent facilities such as kitchens, adequate hostels, washrooms, heating facilities, prepare safety protocols and create a conducive study environment.