Thinley Namgay  

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering’s state of the nation report on education is more on the priorities and way forward rather than on what was achieved when he said the quality of education delivered in Bhutan’s institutions needs improvement for students to be competitive globally.

Lyonchhen said that while Bhutan achieved a commendable literacy rate, the quality of education remains an issue today where education system still follows knowledge-based and classroom-based teaching.

The international demand, according to Lyonchhen, is skill-based education and Bhutanese youth do not get jobs in other countries carrying the graduate certificate from our country.

“An international education institution assessed the quality of education in one of our colleges. Their findings say that our youth don’t have the required skills to get jobs in other countries,” PM said.   “Our graduates don’t have skills to add value to our products.”

However, the solutions Lyonchhen said are in comprehensive curriculum, improving quality of teachers, and improved infrastructure in all schools. “Today, some teachers don’t have an opportunity to go to other dzongkhag once they are placed in a particular school.  Some demand to teach in urban areas to get better exposure and improve their qualifications,” PM said, adding that teachers in the schools are mostly in-country graduates without substantial knowledge and skills.

Lyonchhen said it is time to reform the education system and invest to ensure uniform facilities in ECCD centres to cater to children until they attain eight years, class IV to VIII, and class IX to XII.  Currently, only five percent of the national budget goes to the education sector, said Lyonchhen.

To ensure skill-based education, the government and the education ministry are focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Moreover, reforms are ongoing in the colleges under the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB).

For instance, new and relevant courses like Bachelor of Data Science and Data Analytics, Bachelor of Digital Communications and Project  Management, and Bachelor of Economics and Political Science will be started at Sherubtse College next year.

Last year the government set criteria that students (classes IV to XI) should maintain 40 percent in their continuous assessment, which failed many class X students. However, PM said this is a good sign of skill-based education and students should maintain more than average.

Around 3,700 students failed class X last year and the pass percentage dropped to 70 percent last year, one of the lowest in history.

PM said students are more interested in arts and commerce subjects. For the 2021 class XI enrolment, seats for science students are 4,000 but only 3,000 were occupied. In arts and commerce, some didn’t get a seat.

Today there are around 170,000 students and about 10,000 teachers.

As per the state of the nation report, Bhutan is gearing up for skill-based education. However, one of the factors compromising the quality of education is the culture of poor coordination among stakeholders such as the RUB, labour and education ministries.

The National Commission for Education was established to provide overall guidance and strategic directions to ensure educational programmes.   Through the ICT flagship, 100 percent of schools now have well-equipped computer labs and fibre optic connections.

In collaboration with the Druk Gyalpo’s Institute, the education ministry initiated the HRH Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck National Mathematics Test for students of middle and higher secondary schools.

Another programme, the CK-12, an online-learning platform has also started. It is a site to augment the quality of STEM education.  The curricula of 22 subjects for all classes have been aligned with the principles of Competency-Based Education.

Meanwhile, 303 teachers are undergoing masters in Dzongkha, Science and Mathematics, English and Geography, Inclusive education and Primary education. A five-week training programme ‘Digital Teacher’ has been completed by over 100 teachers.