Education: Going by the annual education statistics, 38 Extended Classrooms (ECRs) were closed between 2013 and 2015 across the country.

In 2013, 12 ECRs were closed, 11 were closed in 2014 and 10 more in 2015. Five ECRs were closed in Samtse last year but were not included in the annual statistics.

Dzongkhag education officers feel more ECRs as well as primary schools could close in the future mainly because of the decreasing number of enrolment in the rural areas.

ECR at Shebji in Haa and Baypam in Trashigang were closed this year due to lack of enrolment

“Baypam ECR, which was downgraded from primary school, was closed because the number of students fell below the minimum requirement of 10,” Trashigang education officer, Phuntsho said.

As per the ECR guideline, minimum of 10 students from classes preprimary (PP) to III is required to keep the school open.

“The school was shut down upon consultation with the people of Baypam who agreed to send their children to Udzorong Central School,” Phuntsho said.

Although only two ECRs from 10 dzongkhags were closed this year, most of the ECRs are facing rapid enrolment decline. Eight primary schools in Mongar also have less than 30 students.

Similarly, 13 more primary schools in Mongar have only 40 students each. Following the declining number of students, the dzongkhag downgraded five primary schools to ECRs, this year. Schools such as Banjar, Takambe, Resa, Broksar and Bakla were downgraded due to declining enrolment number.

Nimzhong and Korphu primary schools in Trongsa were also downgraded to ECRs from primary because of lack of enrolment.

Mongar dzongkhag’s education officer, Dorji Pasang, said that the dzongkhag had planned to close at least three of the total 11 ECRs this year. But the decision was called off following objection from the villagers.

“We had planned to close Mangling ECR, but the decision was cancelled because of strong public protest,” Dorji Pasang said. Mangling has only seven students from Classes PP to III. Likewise, Wama Primary School in Silambi has just 14 students.

ECR in Digala in Zhemgang couldn’t be closed despite not meeting the minimum requirement of 10 students.

Zhemgang’s DEO, Karma Wangchuk, said, “The dzongkhag couldn’t close the schools because the parents aren’t ready to sent their children to far off schools.”

ECRs in Trongsa such as Korphu, Jongthang and Simphu could also be closed in the future because the ECRs have only 13, seven and nine students respectively.

Meanwhile, DEOs feel that despite all the hue and cry from the public, most ECRs and primary schools might have to be closed down few years down the line. “Going by the current declining trend in the number of children, most of the existing ECRs might have to close down in few years,” Dorji Pasang said.

Unless there is an increase in the number of students, keeping all nine ECRs in Zhemgang open will be difficult.

“The ECRs could be retained only if there is at least 10 students in total every year,” Karma Wangchuk said.

But ECRs and primary schools will also be reopened if the number of children increases in the future, said Phuntsho.

Tempa Wangdi