Yangchen C Rinzin

More than a decade ago, in 2008, the education ministry drafted an Education Policy based on the constitutional commitment and policy documents of 1976 and 1982. The policy has so far remained a draft and will take time before it becomes the guiding policy.

The draft is called the National Education Policy 2019 and the Gross National Commission Secretariat had asked the ministry to review the policy.

The education ministry has decided to not put the draft National Education Policy 2019 to the cabinet for approval. Sherig Lyonpo (education minister), Jai Bir Rai said the ministry decided to wait for an Education Council to establish before finalizing the draft. The Royal Kasho (decree) has indicated an establishment of a time-bound Council for Education Reform to prepare a visionary and workable roadmap for the 21st century.

The Sherig Lyonpo said that although the draft was supposed to be reviewed and submitted to the Cabinet for approval, it was wiser to wait for the Council and then carry forward the policy before submitting it for approval.

“We will seek the advice of the Council before the Cabinet’s final approval,” Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai said. “What if we approve the policy now and it’s not as per the Council’s recommendations or if the Council advises us to change the policy.”

However, Lyonpo said that while the policy is still a draft, other initiatives like new normal curriculum and learning management system will be continued.

The draft policy had never gone beyond the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) who review policies and submit them to the Cabinet for approval. The draft was submitted to the GNHC twice, however, it was handed back to the ministry for further review. Education officials share that they have lost track of the draft policy, for instance, when and how many times it has gone to the GNHC.

The education ministry also has a blueprint, the Education Blueprint 2014-2024. The blueprint also calls for a consolidated education policy directive into one legal framework for the growth and development of education in the country.

Many say education policy is necessary to provide vision to respond to changing needs and make education more relevant.

Meanwhile, without a policy, educationists feel that education has become a tool for political gains. They refer to the several changes in the education sector since 2008.

Those in the sector feel that in absence of policy, the government has often played with the education system to fulfil campaign pledges. “Without the policy, decisions are often a short term to suit policies of an elected government,” said one. They cite the examples of central schools, doing away with the Class X cut-off points, minimum age of admission, and transfer of teachers who had served in Thimphu for longest time.

The draft policy states that under the school education, among many policy statements, the ministry, dzongkhags and schools should maintain a class size of a maximum of 24 for primary and 30 for secondary levels. However, many disagree that this is only on paper.

The draft policy was submitted to the Cabinet during the first government in 2011 and then to incorporate the changes, it was submitted to the GNHC, but the final version did not come till the government’s term ended in 2013.

During the second government, although the policy was ready, it was left for the new government to approve and endorse.