Education has always received priority in our country and rightly it’s credited for transforming Bhutan to its current state of development. The recent inauguration of new education institutions reminds us of the acute shortages of such institutions at the tertiary level in the country.

The staggering number of university graduates that enter the job market annually triggers one to think from where all these graduates come while our own institutions are limited in numbers. Yes, a majority of them are graduating from abroad – some on scholarships availed from the government while others on private funding.

According to Annual Education Statistics 2016 report, there are 11,383 students pursuing various courses in all tertiary institutions in Bhutan. While a majority of students under RUB (with the exception of RTC) are funded by the RGoB, about 1,650 (14.5 percent) are self-financed. It’s estimated that there are 3,985 tertiary students, of which 867 are scholarships students and 2,924 under private funding, are studying abroad as of 2016.

For certain specialised courses, we would continue to rely on institutions abroad. But it’s about time we explore and develop in-country capacity for many of the other courses. Not all parents are gifted with children of high academic caliber and at the same time, many of them fall in a category of above average but missing the merit based open scholarships.

These parents would be more than happy to incur equivalent expenditure, of sending them abroad, and send their children to a college at home rather than face all the uncertainties and worries of studying outside. The long distance, political upheavals, sudden change in policies of the universities, and casualness and leniency of education in some colleges, often put serious doubt on the quality of academic degrees acquired abroad.

In view of resource constraints faced by the government, perhaps, it is an opportune time to capitalise on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model in the development of some more tertiary education institutions in the country. The PPP rules and regulations 2017, which was drafted in line with the PPP policy 2016, launched recently by the government could be effectively utilised for the education sector.

In 2009, our Druk Gyalpo, in His Address at the 3rd convocation of the Royal University of Bhutan, said:

“Our education system built and nurtured with your hard work and dedication has served us well. But we must understand that the times have changed here in Bhutan and all around us in the world. We cannot face new challenges with the same tools.”

It’s about time we harnessed private, including external, resources to develop educational institutions for relevant courses in the country and maximise the number of Bhutanese educated at home with quality.