Council: With private school fees rising, the National Council (NC) will recommend framing of a comprehensive operational guidelines for private schools.

Though the House is yet to endorse the reccomendations on the education policy,  private school fees was deliberated at length yesterday.

As per the special committee’s report, the basis for private school fees is currently left to the discretion of proprietors.

In absence of such a policy, Chukha NC member Pema Tenzin said that since even the Constitution enshrines the right of access to free basic education up to class X, private schools fees must be regulated.

The sole reason for the rise in the number of private schools, he said, is because more government schools could not be constructed. “Therefore, whether the parents can or cannot afford, they send their children to private schools,” Pema Tenzin said.

He also urged the government to train teachers in the private schools. “The government should send textbooks in good condition since the private schools are using discarded old textbooks from the government schools,” he added.

But Thimphu NC member Nima Gyaltshen said that the government should stop providing old textbooks to private schools. “The private schools should be able to print and provide textbooks going by the hefty fees they collect,” he said.

He added that while the private schools benefit the country, the lack of policy to regulate their fees has also led to these schools being run like businesses. “There are reports that the education ministry is in the process of approving a fee raise in some of the private schools this year, even though the fees were revised only last year,” Nima Gyaltshen said.

He pointed out that more government schools need to be constructed and the existing ones improved so that parents  don’t have  to send their children to private schools.

Mongar NC member Sonam Wangchuk expressed concerns on what would happen in the future if education is taken over by private schools. “It would bear heavily in the quality of education in the government schools since the children of villagers and the middle-income group makes up the majority of the students attending public schools,” he said.

Sonam Wangchuk also said the country should be concerned that many experienced teachers from the government schools are leaving for private schools. “If this trend continues, there is every chance that the government schools will become a stepping stone for the new teachers,” he said.

Offering more attractive perks and benefits and improving working environment he said are ways to prevent teachers from leaving for private schools.

Meanwhile, Trashi Yangtse NC member Tashi Phuntsho said that the ministry should strictly enforce requirement for campuses and playgrounds for establishement of schools since many private schools are opened without these facilities. “It should be looked into how these schools without proper campus and playgrounds were approved,” he said.

Paro NC member Kaka Tshering said that while the reason to send children to private schools should be for better quality of education and facilities, the reasons in Bhutan are different. Here parents send their children to private schools because their child cannot get admission in government schools before the age of six.

“Therefore, the age of admission for both private and government schools should be streamlined and made uniform,” he said.

Sarpang NC member Dhan Bdr Mongar said that the government schools should be lenient with the pre-primary enrolment age. “The schools should consider accepting admissions of children above five years since they have to wait more than a year even for failing to attain six years by a few months,” Dhan Bdr Mongar said.

Expressing concerns on the private schools recruiting class XII graduates for teachers, Punakha NC member Rinzin Dorji urged the committee to recommend the recruitment of trained teachers since teacher graduates from the two colleges of education are now abundantly available.

The House also recommended expanding the enrolment capacity of primary and middle secondary public schools. “In the absence of in-take capacity in public middle secondary schools, the government sending students to private schools and financing them could be an option to consider,” the committee’s report stated.

But Pema Tenzin urged for construction of more public schools. He said that it is not true that only those from higher income levels send their children to private schools. He pointed out that children are being enrolled in private schools because of the lack of seats in government schools.

Meanwhile, the committee also recommended enhancing the establishment of ECCD centres across the country and on implementation of a special education needs policy for children with special needs. The committee will also deliberate if continuous assessment could be included in class XII.

Tempa Wangdi