Schools propose raise in scholarship fees

Yangchen C Rinzin

Students completing Class X will have the opportunity to choose between private or public schools without having to follow the ranking system in the 2020 academic session.

Education ministry will not place students in schools like they did earlier this year after the result was declared.

It was decided after almost two hours of discussion between the Prime Minister and Private Schools Association of Bhutan (PSAB) representatives yesterday.

This comes after the PSAB comprising of 21 private schools appealed to Prime Minister last month.

The association had requested the education ministry to not distribute students and instead allow students to choose a school based on their preference and convenience.

They said that schools must admit students as per their capacity and scholarship amount has to be revised. The association claimed that the advantage would pressure schools to perform better and improve quality to attract students.

The appeal was made after the PSAB realised that in 2020 the government plans to absorb additional 1,700 students to what the public schools admitted in 2019. Then by 2021 public schools would admit all class X passed students.

According to the education ministry, of the 12,745 students that appeared class X examination this year, the government would absorb more than 9,000 students leaving about 2,700 students for private schools.

However, should fewer than 2,700 students opt for private schools, then the education ministry would distribute the students through the ranking system like they did for the 2019 academic session.

For instance, if only 500 students opt for private schools then the ministry will place students in both public and private schools based on the ranking system since the public schools cannot absorb all the 12,745 students.

PSAB members said that if students are allowed to choose schools, private schools have made an internal agreement that they would not admit more than their capacity.

During the discussion, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that if more students go to private schools, it indicates quality and vice-versa.

PSAB members tried to convince Lyonchhen to increase the number of students to 4,000.

“We don’t want to rush. That’s why we had come to 2,700 students and the intake in government will increase over the years,” Lyonchhen said. “If student intake for private schools reduce in future, we’ll have another discussion and work on it.”

Department of School Education director general, Karma Tshering said that the ministry had written to all the dzongkhags and schools to give a list on the possibility of increasing student intake and needy students.

“That is how we have come to 2,700 students based on the list we received.”

Revision for scholarship fees

Even after a lengthy discussion, the appeal to increase scholarship fees for students studying in private schools fell through.

Except for a few schools, most private schools claimed that they are incurring loss after the government did away with the cut-off point this year and enrolled 7,808 class XI students in public schools. The 21 private schools received 4,225 students on government scholarship paying Nu 30,000 each for day scholars and Nu 50,000 for boarders.

The PSAB requested a fee revision of Nu 40,000 for day scholars and Nu 70,000 for boarders.

Lyonchhen said that the government is aware of the need to revise the fees to cover inflation and the education ministry has come up with its proposal. The ministry proposed a revision of Nu 35,000 for day scholars and Nu 60,000 for boarders.

On the revision of fees, Lyonchhen agreed with a condition.  “As we revise the fees as per your proposal, I want you all to increase the salary of teachers. My decision will depend on how much raise you want to give.” But the response was not forthcoming.

A member said schools were already facing financial implication with the earlier fees, which is why they requested for the revision. Another member said no matter how bad the situation was, no teacher sought to leave the school or asked for salary hike. The revision, another said, would help them meet the overhead costs. 

The PASB representatives said that they would discuss the revision, including whether or not some schools would  collect additional fees, with the rest of the members and get back to the Prime Minister.

“Our next meeting should have materialised on the fee and I don’t want to negotiate again in the next meeting because this is not a business matter,” Lyonchhen said.

Opposition Party’s stand

Meanwhile, calling it “a historic mess” the government has created, the opposition asked the government if they would be able to take all the schools if they decided to surrender, as a few have already submitted to surrender.

It has demanded the government to give clear direction on the future of private schools, according to a press release.

It stated that the government has destroyed the foundation and future of private schools through imposition of unreasonable fee structure and dubious allocation of children among private schools.

“The government has breached several resolutions on student admission and fee structure agreed between government and private schools,” the press release stated. “The definition of basic education has been thrown into confusion whether it’s class X or XII.”

The government must clarify, the press release stated.