It was a rash and reckless decision as it came. There was a strong political push behind it. Warnings fell on deaf ears because there was the election excitement and the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa said that the party, if elected, would do away with the Class X cut-off mark. It was a desperate, popular move to woo the voters.

In the meantime, teachers, educators, and media launched a public debate. There was no support for doing away with the cut-off mark. In fact, what came out clearly from the discourse was that doing away with the cut-off mark could have an adverse and far-reaching impact on the quality of education which is already one of the biggest problems facing the nation today.

Then, Kuensel warned: “We are dealing with education and such a policy change warrants a thorough study. This has not happened and if it has, then it has not been shared with the people. Discussions at the education conference should not be construed as being enough to trigger a policy change that would impact the lives of thousands of students.”

At the heart of the problem, as we saw then and continue to see even now, is the destruction of competitiveness among students.

Now, a report titled “Implications of Promoting Class X Student to Class XI Without a Cut-off Point in Bhutanese Schools” has found that if the quality of education needs to be upheld and students encouraged to work hard, there should be a cut-off point to promote Class X students to XI. The initiative to do away with the cut-off point has led to students become complacent in their studies. Also, more importantly, the report recommends that the present pass percentage of 35 percent for promotion from Class X to XI be reconsidered or reviewed to maintain the quality of education.

The report has proposed a cut-off point within a range of 50-60 percent to encourage students to work hard and value education.

A teacher said: “Students do not take the board exam seriously because they found it easier to score 35 percent due to continuous assessment (CA) component. Even academically low-performing students get 15 out of 20 in CA that help achieve [them] the 35 percent overall marks.”

The problem is that we have played enough with education. When the talk of doing away with Saturday classes for schools was doing the rounds, in 2018, Kuensel’s stand was that the decision could have a far-reaching impact at all levels in the educations system. We did not welcome it and suggested that the government slowed down with the idea.

Parents, educators, and teachers pleaded with the ministry to look beyond such an easy and spineless decision. Now, two years later, the education ministry says that the schools should reinstate Saturday immediately because this ill-advised decision of the ministry and politicians has negative impact on education and learning.  

Political parties will come and go but the nation’s future must always be forward-looking. Don’t play with education. So the argument it is time we had an education Act.