Council questions sustainability of central schools

Establishing central schools alone will not improve quality of education, say members

Education: The government should carryout exhaustive consultation with concerned stakeholders in identifying future central schools, keeping in mind some basic criteria like balanced regional development, population and economic background.

This was one of the recommendations the National Council endorsed yesterday while deliberating the issues of central schools.

While central schools could play a vital role in improving the quality of education, members also agreed to the recommendation that the government must rationalize its investment of central school fund to achieve quality considering the interest and need of all other schools.

The other recommendation is to categorize central schools into two groups like PP to Class VI and from Class VII to XII to ensure better management, care and development.

The Council also resolved to recommend the government to develop an action plan to reduce underutilization of existing educational infrastructure and services in the communities in consultation with local government and dzongkhag administration.

Issues

Trongsa councilor Tharchen who presented the central school issues said the Council appreciates the government’s initiative in school reforms programme to enhance quality of school education through rationalization of smaller schools and delegation of administrative and management autonomy for selected schools in the country.

Although the benefits of school rationalization mainly in reducing government expenses has been lately recognized and accepted by local authorities and parents, he said, “the huge investment on basic items and commodities was not received well by most concerned institutions and local stakeholders.”

Tharchen said that another issue was inadequate consultation by the education ministry with relevant institutions at the local government level, mainly in identifying central schools and its implementation approach. He also highlighted the poor sense of preparedness and consensus over central school programmes both at central and local level.

The central school initiative was implemented more than a year ago.

The National Council pointed out that considering huge amount of budget allocation on basic amenities like uniforms, stationaries and beddings for all boarding children in a central school, there is concern among the elected representatives, public and teachers on the sustainability of such programmes.

The Council also highlighted the concerns of the people on the inconsistency of the central school approach in their communities as indicated with free supply of uniforms, stationaries and meals only for boarding students of select schools, and day scholar students of same school being deprived of similar facilities in a same community and district.

Tharchen said the central schools faced acute shortage of human resources to cater to the intended care and services as required. This, he said further worsened after the Cabinet approved the minimum enrollment to be over 800 students in a central school, without considering the availability of facilities and preparedness of the concern school.

“So a strong sense of fear of compromising quality services is on rise among most school management and authorities,” he said.

Views

Bumthang’s councilor Nima said that during his constituency visits, parents who benefit from the central schools with free amenities were appreciative of the initiative. However, he said the issue was that only students who lived within five kms from the schools were not entitled the same benefits.

While the target in establishing central schools is to mainly improve the quality of education as stated by the education minister, during a question hour session at the Council, he said merely providing the basic amenities will not help provide quality education.

“The central schools should also be provided with facilities like internet, sports, among others that would benefit students and thereby improve the quality of education,” he said.

Nima also questioned the sustainability and continuity of such initiative. “What if the assistance from the Indian government stops?” he asked.

Sarpang councilor Dhan Bdr Monger pointed out the need to identify central schools in consultation with local government leaders and dzongkhag education officers.

Samdrupjongkhar’s councilor Jigme Wangchuk said the government might feel that the Council is against the concept of Central Schools like it opposed the Business Opportunity Information Centre, which is not the case.

Citing an example of the education city, he said the former government initiated the project with an Act while the present government stopped it for various reasons. “The change in policies with the change in government is a concern,” he said, adding that whether or not people supported it, ultimately it was the ruling government that decided.

Kinga Dema

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