Yangchen C Rinzin

It is now left entirely up to the private schools whether or not to collect school fees.

Education minister Jai Bir Rai, during the Meet The Press session yesterday, said that his ministry has decided not to intervene in their affairs.

Lyonpo said that the Private School Association of Bhutan should sit together with the school management boards, which also have parents as members and then discuss the issue of school fees.

Private schools and parents are both mulling over the school fees issues as the schools have remained closed soon after the 2020 academic session began due to Covid-19 pandemic.

“The issue is almost like it’s a private affair between the businessman and the customer although the situation is different because of the pandemic,” Lyonpo said.

“When we look into the issue, both the parents and schools are right in their own ways and it’s difficult to decide when both the parties are right.”

The ministry was supposed to assess the schools on the implementation of Education in Emergency (EIE) as they remain closed and the engagement of schools through online education. The ministry would then decide if the school fees should be paid or not.

The school proprietors argue collecting fees is justifiable because the lessons are continued online regularly. Parents feel otherwise.

Many schools are confident that they could pay the faculty until May with the fees collected for the first half-year. However, some are worried as they are yet to receive the entire fees.

Some parents expressed the schools should be considerate and waive half the fees.

The ministry’s assessment also showed that all schools implemented the EIE. The minister said for the ministry the priority is to ensure that EIE is implemented.

Lyonpo told Kuensel that the private schools teachers have actively kept their students engaged, followed every protocol of online education, and provided continuous service.

The report recommended parents to pay the fees. “However, we decided they can sit together and decide among themselves instead of us intervening.”

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said the private schools should take their own stand and come up with the decision instead of waiting for government’s directives.

“We’ve to put ourselves into both their shoes to understand this issue,” Lyonchhen said. “What if the government directs parents not to pay the fee, but the school reopens soon. Again it’s still not sure when the schools will reopen.”

However, Lyonchhen said the government has to consider those working in private schools because they depend on their salary and what if the schools decide to lay off the staff.

“Yes, we will have to anyway open the school one day. That’s why we have not decided on whether they should pay the fee or not.”

Lyonchhen said that schools could build on their business modality and sort out.

“This is not in our hands. The schools cannot chase parents for the fee but can work on how to pay the fee.”

Meanwhile, the education minister said that since there are no clear directives on reopening the schools, the ministry has prepared for different scenarios should the schools reopen.

Lyonpo said one measure is the Prioritised Curriculum EIE-II which is expected to begin from June. This curriculum will comprise 65-70 percent of the actual curriculum content calculated based on the remaining instructional time left for the academic year 2020.

“The prioritised curriculum is a distilled curriculum that will comprise of procedural knowledge, skills, values, strategies and processes. It will assess both learning improvement and promotion to the next higher class.”

Lyonchhen said that it is still not decided when to reopen the schools and the government will look at various options and conditions before coming up with a decision soon.

The education ministry has prepared options on how to reopen the schools based on low, medium and high-risk areas. For instance, one way to go about is to open only high schools first, schools in remote areas or open schools from class VII and above.

“We’ll decide based on these options. If any parents have any ideas can share with us too.”