Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay signed the annual performance agreement (APA) with the education minister Norbu Wangchuk and the agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji yesterday in Thimphu.

The APA for the 2017-2018 fiscal year was also signed between the minister and education secretary and director generals.

The performance agreement is aimed to establish clarity and consensus on the ministry’s annual priorities with the 11th Five Year Plan, and to ensure full utilisation of budget among others. APA is one of the measures the government has taken to improve good governance.

The APA was signed to formulate sound educational policies, to provide equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning, and to prepare the students with appropriate knowledge, skills and values to cope with the challenges of the 21st century.

With the signing, the ministry agrees to improve relevance and quality of education such as maintaining primary completion rate above 100 percent, increase percentage of students in the secondary education, implement teacher human resources policy, and to review and revise subjects to incorporate international best practices of teaching, learning and assessment.

With the target to improve access to and sustainability of education, the ministry should enhance nutritional standards and the health of students, expand ECCD and special education services, and expand access to primary, basic and tertiary education.

The ministry should develop equivalency framework and strengthen continue education to enhance adult literacy rate and lifelong learning in this fiscal year. Some of the actions the ministry should look into are enhancement of basic ICT skills of non-ICT staff members to enable effective and efficient ICT service delivery.

However, to achieve the targets mentioned in the APA, the ministry would require cooperation from other ministries, agencies and dzongkhags. For instance, the success of the central school would depend on the timely construction of required infrastructure by the dzongkhags.

Presenting on the education reform, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk, said there are 62 central schools, 22 autonomous schools, 16 special schools, one Armed Force School, and 307 ECCDs in the country.

“Some of the reforms are distribution of fortified rice in the school feeding, drama promotion and access to sanitary napkins for schools,” Lyonpo said. He added that under the curriculum reform, the ministry developed a curriculum road map, framework for different subjects, texts book updated, and developed dzongkha teaching learning materials.

He said that some of the achievements in the teacher reforms were launch of masters degree for 40 teachers in Samtse and 32 in Yonphula, the national professional development (PD) program, and the establishment of the Sherig research endowment fund.

Some of the challenges Lyonpo stated were shortage of teachers, youth issues, low teacher morale, and inadequate resources.

“The ministry would focus on the teacher PD, establishment of central schools, strengthening ICT, upscale one ECCD in one chiwog, enhance counseling services, and strengthen youth engagement programs,” he said.

The Prime Minister applauded the education ministry for its achievement in the last fiscal year including the achievement of targets not included in the plan.

Yangchen C Rinzin