The National Day celebration at Punakha Dzong this year was a unique national event. There wasn’t the “usual crowd” which made it look all the more solemn. In many ways it was the coming home of the most important celebration because it was here, in 1907, where modern Bhutan was born with the installation of Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck as the first hereditary monarch. More important, the 113th National Day celebration was a powerful experience which forced the people to reflect deeply on the many significant issues facing the nation today.
The National Day is important because of the Royal address which usually sums up the country’s development journey and shines a light on the opportunities that lie ahead for Bhutan and the Bhutanese. His Majesty The King’s address to the nation yesterday carried a special significance because it singled out the failures, not the achievements, of two of the most important institutions in the country — the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) and the Ministry of Education.
A strong elected government is good but never as nearly good as a strong civil service. For Bhutan, a young democracy, a strong civil service is all the more important because of continuity that it can ensure. Over the years, we have seen how political pressure can shake the RCSC. The Commission must be led by strong leaders but that alone will not solve the problems. We have gaps to fill across the systems. That is why His Majesty The King’s Kasho is important for the RCSC. Bhutan’s civil service is arguably one of the most relaxed bodies in the country today, which makes the need for restructuring initiative all the more compelling.
What we know is that without the Royal Kasho, restructuring the civil service system is impossible.
Coming to the Nerig of the Sherig, the standard of education has been the subject of debate for decades now. There have been attempts, some very serious initiatives such as Educating for Gross National Happiness and the Education Blueprint 2014-2024, but there has not been a marked change in the system so far. It could be argued that bringing changes in the education system is hard because the whole of the education system comes under the RCSC. The increasing youth unemployment, for example, has a direct link to the failures in our education system. How do we fix it? The focus and investment in STEM education has been few and far between.
And, over the years, Bhutan has been consistently falling behind in literature and science education.
His Majesty said that the children were not to blame; we have failed them together.
Being small is sometimes a formidable problem. Change has no space when everybody knows everyone in the society and, so, the growth of professionalism has been frustratingly slow in our case. This must change. That is why the Royal Kasho is very significant; it calls for a change and gives the systems a clear sense of the future. It is now on the leaders of RCSC and education ministry to make the move.