To suit the Gyalsung programme

Yangchen C Rinzin 

The government is once again looking into policy on the age criteria for admission into pre-primary (PP).

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering hinted that the government might ask the education ministry to change the age criteria to five years instead of six to get into class PP.

Lyonchhen told Kuensel that this move was necessary to ensure it aligned with the National Service (Gyalsung) that would be instituted in the country by 2022. He announced the possible change in policy during a live interview with BBS  on December 19.

His Majesty The King on the National Day announced that Bhutanese youth who turn 18 by 2022 would have the opportunity to undergo a yearlong training programme, Gyalsung. The training will include a three-month military style training, and a nine-month programme in areas like agriculture sciences, entrepreneurship, computers and coding, health sciences, etc.     

“If we’re to have a seamless implementation of Gyalsung, there must be some re-adjustment to harmonise with Gyalsung,” Lyonchhen said. “This is why we might have to tweak some of the policies or curriculum wherever possible, which is ok because Gyalsung is mandatory and an important historic project.”

Calling it positive adjustments and alignments, Lyonchhen said this was why there was a need to discuss and change the class PP admission policy to ensure every child got to join Gyalsung at the age of 18 years.

Lyonchhen explained that since the entrance level to PP is six years, student would complete class 12 only when they attend 18 years, which means he or she would be late for the Gyalsung. “This is why we may have to start the admission to PP from five years. By the time they join Gyalsung they would turn exactly 18 years old.”

Lyonchhen added the mandatory age for Gyalsung is 18 years old and the student would not join college for next one year. However, some might turn only 17 and half months old after class 12.

“For this, the Gyalsung would have a provisional voluntary group to join the Gyalsung. So, if we did not tweak the age policy, the temporary provision to defer would keep increasing,” Lyonchhen added. “If we fix this now then we’ll not have such temporary group at a certain point.”

Lyonchhen said that criteria could change from next academic session. Lyonchhen would talk with the education ministry soon.

Today, the age profile of all the class X students currently studying shows that about 60 percent of them would be older than 18 years in 2022, while only about 30 percent are age-appropriate. Only about 13 percent would be younger than 18 years by January 2022.

The current standard age criteria for class PP admission is six years old, which is based on the documents issued on November 13 1985. This is also as per the international calculation to support a child’s physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social development.

Earlier this year, the ministry revoked admission of 890 underage PP students (below 5.5 years old). Prime minister had asked to reconsider the decision but education ministry stood by its decision. It was later reconsidered as one-time adjustment.

Lyonchhen told Kuensel that admission age at six years old was subjective and it depended on the child’s mentation process because what a six-year-old child could do in the 1980s or 1990s a three-year-old can do today. “The cognitive [development] depends on the curriculum designed, not on the age of a child going to school. We’ve to implement by next academic session itself to ensure no child misses the Gyalsung programme.”

Lyonchhen said it was not only the PP admission that needed to be changed but also other factors such as high school intake, college intake, RCSC’s induction, service enrolment, declaration of results of RUB college and scholarship intake.

“All these are in our hands and we can re-adjust so that everything is aligned with the Gyalsung. Scholarships can be availed after the Gyalsung programme,” he said.

There will be no intake for Royal University of Bhutan colleges in 2022 because all class 12 graduates would be enrolled in Gyalsung programme.

Children born between January 31, 2003 and December 31, 2003 and who will complete class XII in 2021 will be the first batch of Gyalsung programme.

A National Service Bill and the rules and regulations are being drafted.