The national education conference in Phuentsholing decided not to do away with the Class X cut off point but to include a fourth stream for classes XI and XII from 2020 academic session.

The fourth stream would be Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) streams, which would be equivalent (or more) to Arts, Science, and Commerce streams.

The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa had pledged to do away with the Class X cut off point to not leave students who do not qualify through the merit-based competition.

The conference decided that the government would fund the TVET students through scholarship programmes, in private schools, which would be given the opportunity to enrol students in the TVET stream.

It was also underlined that since the government would not be able to place all Class X graduates to Class XI due to space, shortage of teachers, and lack of infrastructure, private players are brought in with public-private partnership (PPP) model.

The education secretary, Karma Yeshey, said the government would send students to private institutions and that the government would pay their fees.

“It would be done through PPP model,” he said. “Private players should work out to provide the TVET stream.”

Karma Yeshey said classrooms and boarding facilities wouldn’t be a problem but they would now have to make adjustments from academic-oriented programmes to technical.

He said the ministry proposed this alternative to the government in keeping with the pledge to do away the cut-off point for Class X students.

“TVET is already there in the education blueprint. Labour ministry also has it,” he said.

Meanwhile, those students who pass the cut-off point would also have the flexibility to opt for TVET stream in Class XI.

Karma Yeshey said the ministry would work for a whole year with Royal Education Council (REC), Bhutan Council for School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA), and labour ministry to develop the curriculum.

The certification would be the same and after completion of Class XII, students can opt for tertiary education in skills-based programmes.

“Our children would come with skills that the market needs and benefit economic and the country,” education secretary said, adding that children and parents would benefit the most. “We want to help them ultimately.”

The conference identified and endorsed about seven TVET institutions would also start in the country by 2020. However, it was highlighted that the TVET as a stream is entirely different from the existing one.

Education minister, Jai Bir Rai, said that bringing TVET would also mean the cut off point is done away.

“We are anyway aligning with the mission and vision of the GNHC society where nobody would be left out,” he said.

The lyonpo said since teachers and spaces for schools determine considering cut off point, TVET had come as a solution. “ It would still provide an opportunity to Class X graduates, provide skills-based studies and bridge links to mismatch of jobs and reduce unemployment problems.”

He said TVET as a stream does not mean that the low performing students would be placed there. “It is just another option,” lyonpo said.

A participant at the conference, Dorji Nidup, who is the principal of Lhuentse HSS, said the government would not be able to take in all the Class X students.

“TVET as a stream is a very good move,” he said, adding that children would get the opportunity to continue their education.

Dorji Nidup said a lot of students could not afford to go to private schools.

Meanwhile, the education conference endorsed 16 resolutions in the five-day conference. There would not be instructional classes in Saturdays starting 2019 academic session. Examinations for Classes PP to three would also not be there from 2020.

Considering the importance of enhancing quality and inclusive education and ensuring the sustainability of central schools, the ministry also resolved to enhance facilities in existing central schools by constructing additional hostels, classrooms and staff quarters as required considering gender, age, and disability. The ministry would also establish large boarding primary schools with a central school like provisions, as proposed in the draft 12th Plan.

The ministry would also review and establish additional central schools in the 12th Plan.

The conference also endorsed to establish one premier school for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in principle.

It also decided to carry out an in-depth study to develop an action plan for the establishment.

A framework and guidelines for child safety, security and protection of children in educational institutes would also be developed.

The draft Bhutan Professional Standards for Teachers and Competency Framework for Principals are endorsed in principle.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing