Change is in the offing. Cultures and traditions evolve with time. What remains is only the semblance of the real.
There was a time when at least a child from a family went to monastery to be a monk. It was a privilege of a sort because monasteries were the only places where education could be had. But the reality is changing. We have today various systems of education that happen to be more practical and rewarding than the traditional monastic system.
When there are choices to pick from, of course some systems will lose out. Education is increasingly becoming meaningless. Certificates count more than skills. And so the talk about declining quality of education.
But the picture is one of culture today and the impact it could have in the long run.
Between 2011 and 2015, enrolment in the 388 monastic schools and three nunneries in the country decreased by almost half. In 2015, monastic schools enrolled 4,435 novices, a drop from 7,240 in 2011.
We can figure out why this is happening. The benefits of modern education are far greater than monastic education.
Our monasteries will increasingly experience drops in enrolment.
For a deeply religious society like ours, this could have serious impact. Already we face shortage of religious personalities. Villages face severe dearth of gomchens. But religious rituals will have to be performed.
It is now only the children of economically challenged families who join the monasteries. With economic development in the future, our monasteries confront the situations where there will be no monks.
It is not that we do not give importance to monastic education. Any form of education is important. It is only that our society is changing. Our society is adapting to the needs of changing times.
There are about 5,700 monks registered with the Central Monastic Body today. But the dropout rate is also worryingly high. According to the Tsugla Lopen, about 40 to 50 monks quit every year.
If monasteries should maintain constant enrolment rate, more or less, monastic education should be made more attractive. But the key is that we maintain the quality of education.
This is a narrative of change we are going through.