…with effect from the 2017 academic session in rural as well as urban areas

Education: All government and private schools will be allowed to start boarding facilities in rural as well as urban areas with effect from the next academic session.

The education ministry issued an executive order in this regard on June 27, revoking the boarding policy of 1995. The circular states that all public and private schools as well as private hostels will be allowed to start boarding facilities in rural as well as urban areas with effect from the 2017 academic year.

Education minister Norbu Wangchuk said that the boarding policy of 1995 was instituted with certain objectives in mind with one of them being to halt rural-urban migration.

However, Lyonpo said as the policy has not been able to achieve its objective, it had to be reviewed. “It has been more than 20 years since the policy was framed and the situation has changed,” he said. “Today there are many young boys and girls living in rented apartments and others living as dependents with their relatives not getting adequate pastoral care.”

Given such concerns, Lyonpo said many private schools have also expressed their desire to start boarding facilities, which was why the policy was reviewed. “After a school is over, students are left on their own,” he said.  “While most do live with their parents there are also a large number who live on their own, unsupervised.”

Lyonpo added that boarding facilities will provide pastoral care after school to such students. “Boarding facilities would support such children to be immersed in better care and learning environment,” he said. “I’m sure many parents would want to avail hostel facilities.”

The ministry is also optimistic that boarding facilities will work in urban places as well as rural.

The ministry urged all interested schools wishing to offer boarding facilities as well as private hostel operators to take note of the criterion to ensure physical, emotional and psycho-social safety, proper care and full engagement of the students in the hostels.

Criteria for boarding facilities include different quarters for boys and girls following the requirement of physical infrastructure as reflected in the guidelines for the establishment of private schools in Bhutan. Schools/private hostels would also require qualified wardens and matrons who will reside in the hostels to ensure proper care and guidance to the boarders. School principals or hostel managers shall also reside in the same campus to provide over all guidance and directions to the wardens and matrons and also to ensure safety of the boarders.

The criteria also mandates schools/private hostels to have an infirmary as reflected in the guidelines for the establishment of private schools in Bhutan with basic health supplies. A warden or matron shall be the first point of reference for any health issues amongst boarders. The more serious cases shall be referred to the hospital or the nearest basic health unit. “Teachers, wardens and matrons shall educate students on the importance of proper health and hygiene practices,” it states.

To ensure food safety, all schools/private hostels are required to abide by the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority regulations and guidelines for boarding meals. The schools shall offer a balanced diet as prescribed in the Bhutan dietary guidelines for school children 2015. “School cooks shall undergo the necessary training so that students are provided with healthy meals,” it states.

All schools/private hostels will also have scheduled timing for morning, evening and night studies besides co-curricular and extra-curricular activities such as reflection, journaling, and sharing circles that shall give boarders a safe space for expressing emotional concerns, feelings or issues.

 Kinga Dema