For thousands of students who dreaded exams, the government’s initiative to do away with the Class X cut-off point or the bench mark to qualify to study in government-sponsored schools came as a rescue. 

The government’s initiative is now under the scanner. The policy is being questioned. A research by the Samtse College of Education pointed out that the quality of education is deteriorating because of the policy. Yesterday, at the first day of the business session of Parliament, the Prime Minister denounced the research by calling it an anecdote — mere views from parents, students and teachers.

The only research, an independent and voluntary study on the cut-off points and its impact — pointed out some serious issues. It found out that students in Class X took the decision of doing away with the cut-off point as a “guarantee card’ to study in the government schools or in private schools with government sponsorship. While the validity of the research, conducted by educationists, has not made any impact, it is a concern if the government’s decision is not helping students intellectually and only helping parents from saving a few more thousands.

If students are not taking the Class X exams seriously, a make-it-or-break-it hurdle during the Prime Minister’s schooling days, it is a big problem. Education is not about passing examinations. But as the only means to gauge student’s competency as they finish primary level, board examinations today is the only way to grade students who join government schools to continue their education. If both teachers and students felt that doing away with the cut-off points made students complacent, it would hamper the quality of education and future leaders.

When the government did away with the cut-off point, it was not based on research or studies. The only research on the issue is the one Samtse College of Education did. And it found out that there should have been scientific reasons or research before the decision was imposed. The claim is that the benefits of the government’s decision would be seen a decade later, by 2030.  A decade is a long time to see implications of decisions, especially in education. 

Education is evolving all over the world. Many education systems do not believe in examinations as the yardstick to measure student’s competence. But they have alternatives. We do not have that. Examinations are one and, given the pressure on our state sponsored education facilities, there has to be a system where not all can graduate from government schools and college and become civil servants. The failed policy of alternate education like technical or vocational education can be attributed to the notion that everybody has to be a university graduate and then a civil servant. In today’s context, there are more university graduates unemployed while we have an acute shortage of skilled people.

The future of Bhutan lies in the hands of the youth. Does it, really? The future is decided by today’s leaders. Our youth have no say in such decisions.

The debate and discourse has to continue. 

Let us not kill it by calling it an “anecdote”. It should provide insight even as we gear for reforms in our education system that His Majesty The King has commanded through a royal edict.