NC questions sustainability of Central Schools

The Council also raised concerns on budget allocation

Council: It is going to cost the government around Nu 1.3 billion in the 12th Plan when it is estimated 100,000 students will be enrolled by Central Schools the National Council’s  (NC) report on the review of quality of education revealed yesterday.

The report compiled by the NC’s special committee informed the House that the Central Schools are going to further stretch financial resources after 2018 when the World Food Programme (WFP) is phased out completely.

Pemagatshel NC member, Jigmi Rinzin, presenting the report said that while India is providing the funds in the form of a grant for the Central Schools today, it is also important that the government ensure continuity of external grants in future and begin assessing whether domestic revenue can meet expenses.

“The government must start questioning itself from now only whether the financial resources for education is actually sustainable in the long run,” Jigmi Rinzin said.

The cost estimation of 120 Central Schools in the 12th Plan is based on the expenditure incurred by the existing 51 Central Schools. Around Nu 567 million was required for these schools in the 2016 academic year. “Keeping the same cost for 120 Central Schools, the additional financial burden amounts to Nu 1,334 million,” states the report.

Jigmi Rinzin said that the Nu 1.3 billion however does not cover inflation. The conversion of schools to Central Schools has also increased the cost per student. After the schools were turned into Central Schools, the cost of a boarder went up by Nu 19,370 each and by Nu 7,546 for every day-scholar.

The cost of a boarding student in a Central School is Nu 50,204 while it is Nu 30,834 per student in a non Central School. Even the cost of a day scholar in a Central School is higher at Nu 27,714 to Nu 20,168 in a non Central School.

The report further states that by 2018 the Central Schools will have to incorporate 24,216 students who are currently under the WFP programme. “This will be in addition to expected increase of expenditure in coming years with increasing maintenance cost from existing infrastructures and additional capital investments to absorb the rising enrolment,” the report states.

The report also pointed out inadequate budget allocation in areas of concern like teacher professional development, teacher incentives and teaching learning materials.

While school reform has been receiving significant budget, it was found that only 2.39 percent (Nu 271 million) of the total budget of Nu 11.39 billion was allocated for teacher professional development in various departments.

Only 0.26 percent of the total budget was channeled to curriculum reform while 1.82 percent was allocated on teaching-learning resources. “Worse is that only 0.023 percent of the total budget was allotted in teacher incentives,” the report states.

Since budget for primary schools are allocated in lump sum with the dzongkhag budget, primary schools have also been mired in budget constraints. “Because of heavy competition among the primary schools in the dzongkhags, primary schools are confronted with shortage of budget to repair their school infrastructures, procuring library resources and celebrations,” Jigme Rinzin said.

The report also points out discrepancies in staffing patterns with absence of caregivers in primary schools to nurse children aged six years. The primary schools also lacked support staff like sweepers.

“As a result, some schools resort to collecting some funds from parents to recruit a temporary sweeper,” the report says.

Prevalence of huge disparity in budget allocation lacking equity and fairness was also found. For instance a student in Martshala middle secondary school (MMSS) was allocated only Nu 6,780 in 2014 against Nu 28,078 per student of Khangkhu middle secondary school (KMSS). Similarly, the budget disparity continued even in 2015 when only Nu 5,758 was allocated per student in MMSS compared to Nu 30,875 in KMSS.

Presenting the report on access to education Gasa NC member Sangay Khandu said there is lack of a comprehensive government policy to govern the operational aspects of the private schools in the country. For instance, the basis for fee structures and their proposition is being left at the discretion of the proprietors.

“Even in India during the committee’s visit to private schools it was found that the basis of the fees weren’t based on the profit of the proprietor,” Sangay Khandu said.

The report also stated that since teacher professional development takes a backseat in the private schools, it is feared such practises would bear directly on the quality of teaching and learning.

The report also highlighted the requirement of special education needs (SEN) programmes and trained SEN teachers since 3.4 percent of the population live with disabilities. The SEN policy document envisions a class size of 20 with a maximum of 4 differently-abled children. “Further, it also mandates a teacher assistant and care giver but has been observed that teachers are managing the situation by giving more attention and time,” Sangay Khandu said.

In terms of teaching material and assessment tools, nothing has been implemented the committee found. “Access to these supporting resources made a huge difference in their learning as observed during the visit to India,” the report states.

The report raised concerns over the existing method of making students with learning disabilities study the same curriculum and appear the same examination as mainstream students. “For students with learning disability, it may not be cognitively palatable and therefore, cumulative examinations or even conventional methods may prove wrong to measure their learning attainment,” the report states.

The committee’s report expressed concern over the gap in access to early childcare and development (ECCD) in the rural areas. “The experiences from some of the teachers in the primary schools confirm the fact that children with access to ECCD exhibited comparatively better learning achievements compared to those without access to ECCD,” the report states.

It also said that the ECCDs besides helping the children prepare for school would play a critical role in the early detection of learning challenges to facilitate special education.

Tempa Wangdi

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