NC begins with follow-up reports

In the 12th Plan, many small and unsustainable schools will be merged with the central schools. This is in line with education ministry’s move to reduce the number of schools through school ‘rationalisation’.

“By then, there will be 120 central and large urban schools,” the education ministry wrote to the National Council’s (NC) recommendation on education policy and strategy passed during its 18th session last year.

NC’s Natural Resources and Environment Committee, and a special committee constituted to review the education policy, presented the follow-up report on the 18th session resolutions yesterday.

Committees presented the responses from the ministries on the NC’s recommendations on education policy and strategy during the opening session.

A special committee, constituted to review the education policy and strategy, worked for more than a year and presented its report in the House during its 18th session.

NC had observed that all schools across the country do not receive a fair and equitable share of resources, and primary schools face inconveniences while implementing plans and activities in the absence of separate budget head.

The House recommended that the government urgently institute a fair, equitable and transparent resource allocation mechanism for schools.

The ministry clarified that school budgets will be allocated to schools based on the funding modality of the existing autonomous schools whereby schools will have authority over the use of the fund.

The education ministry’s response is that with investment in central schools – 60 more central schools to be established in the 12th Plan – will have implications on the enrolment in other schools. “Keeping the above in mind, the ministry does not encourage major infrastructure development, especially in small unsustainable schools, as it would lead to wastage of resources.”

However, a portion of budget is provided from time to time to schools to carry out minor repairs and maintenance projects and to ensure that teaching-learning takes place in a safe and conducive environment. Budget allocation is kept for capacity development programmes, which is seen as important if the quality of education is to improve.

The ministry is also developing per child cost for each recurrent budget code, which will be used as the basis for budget allocation. It will be implemented in the 12th Plan if approved during the annual education conference and by the finance ministry.

The finance ministry’s said that the budget allocation is based on the education ministry’s policies and guidelines. “For schools, the resource allocations are based on per student cost, past expenditure trends, remoteness of schools and transportation cost.”

Boarding schools are given budget based on the actual number of students in the school.

On the separate budget for primary schools instead of consolidating with the dzongkhag’s budget, the education ministry said consultation is sought from the schools and dzongkhags and a report will is submitted to the finance ministry.

The finance ministry said that primary school budgets are consolidated with dzongkhag education budget to avoid duplication of work and additional cost to the government.

Rationalisation

With the school rationalisation exercise, schools will function as autonomous schools and will be provided with separate budget.

According to education ministry, central school or autonomous school is the only modality to meet the goals of quality education and using judiciously the available resources in strengthening the teaching-learning in schools.

The finance ministry said that it will ensure financial sustainability of the central schools, but the ministry may need to diversify, formulate strategies and programmes to supplement and support the government allocations for the long-term development and sustainability of the schools.

Among others, the ministry intends to provide staff quarter to 80 percent of the teachers at the school campus.

Another recommendation was for the government to follow the standard curriculum review cycle in order to provide adequate time and resources to ensure current, relevant and right size curriculum through focused national level subject conferences and workshops.

The ministry responded: “If it were not for budget constraints, many subjects would be reviewed in the light of changing systems and economic development.”

NC Chairperson, Sonam Kinga (PhD), said that lack of budget to maintain a dynamic and relevant curriculum was a lame excuse. The ministry, he said, has the budget to train English teachers for a week on teaching Shakespeare but the budget is lacking when it comes to curriculum development, including teaching History in Dzongkha.  This, he said, was contradictory.

NC committees will seek more details on the activities the government is carrying out to address the issues the committees raised.

Agriculture policy and strategies

NC had also recommended that government involve agriculture ministry and economic affairs ministry to work out the modalities for integrated water resources management. A minimum of one percent of royalty energy in cash should be made available on annual basis to agriculture ministry for integrated water resources management.

The MoEA ministry said that there was no linkage between allocations of royalty energy and for enhancing the agriculture productivity.

At present, the government provides an annual subsidy of Nu 1.78 billion for electricity supply in providing 100 units free to rural households. “Ploughing back royalty energy in without the accompanying human, land and institutional reforms would only lead to misallocation of public funds and an opening of precedence for other sectors to also make similar claims. Thereby deviating from the purpose of why royalty energy was established,” MoEA’s response stated.

However, the economic affairs ministry said that the ministry was asked to do a study and analysis of royalty energy.

In line with the recommendation of NC, agriculture ministry said that commercial production of cereal and horticulture crops are prioritised. In the 12th Plan, agriculture department aims to 95 percent self-sufficiency.

The agriculture ministry is working towards 65 percent rice self-sufficiency by 12th Plan, reverting about 7,075 acres of fallow paddy fields. Land consolidation and development is underway through the Farm Mechanisation Corporation Ltd.

Rice self-sufficiency ratio was 45 percent in 2015.

Among others, the NC had also recommended the government to scale up investment in irrigation infrastructure development and timely maintenance of the existing irrigation channels. The agriculture ministry, Chukha MP Pema Tenzin, said has until now only mentioned the schemes.

“We’ll have to write back to the ministry seeking details about the location of the irrigation schemes and the size of those schemes,” he said.

Tshering Palden

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