Yangyel Lhaden 

The 132 vacant Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centres which remained shut because of shortage of facilitators could open soon. 

Following the Cabinet’s approval, the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has approved recruitment of 156 facilitators for the centres as requested by the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) and the order was issued to the ministry on July 19.  

Some ECCD centres have been vacant for more than three years since their establishment. 

The ministry’s proposal included re-deployment of 30 ECCD facilitators to the vacant centres from ECCD centres which were likely to convert to mobile ECCD centres. The other was to re-deploy non-formal education instructors who were willing to teach ECCD children and met the eligibility criteria with closure of NFE centres. The ministry requested 68 NFE instructors to work as ECCD facilitators. 

By last month, of the 505 NFE centres in 2022, 40 NFE centres had been shut down. A centre has to have a minimum of eight learners for it to continue. 

The ministry has also proposed for 58 new recruitments of ECCD facilitators to RCSC at the earliest possible.

An ECCD official said, “The approval of ECCD facilitators is much awaited and children and parents will share the excitement.”

He said that the ministry was thankful to the government and agencies concerned for granting approval for ECCD facilitators. “ECCD facilitators would help in maximising enrollment and embarking on the vision of achieving 100 percent access to the centres in five years.”

The government’s target is to increase the ECCD enrollment rate to 50 percent by 2024 and 100 percent by 2030. Currently, there are 9,987 children in ECCDs—private and government— across the country.

Most parents expressed their concern on the absence of childcare support and high expenses related to ECCD centres as a discouraging factor for them to have more than two children.

Bhutan’s fertility rate is declining, dropping from six children per woman in 1982 to 1.9 in 2017, and further decreasing to 1.8 last year. This indicates that a majority of couples are now having only one to two children. Bhutan needs at least 2.5 births per woman according to the global standard for population replacement.

An official from MoESD said that population growth is crucial to a nation’s development and ECCD and workplace crèche were crucial enabling support for parents. “For the population to grow we need to support parents and for that there should be policies targeted for sustainable and meaningful services and one such is making ECCDs accessible.”

The ministry is going to advertise announcement for 58 new recruitments soon and re-deploy existing staff with the ministry to ECCD centres as facilitators.