Yangchen C Rinzin

When the government decided to lower the Pre-Primary (PP) admission age to 5 years, the new policy came in as a surprise not only to the education ministry but also to teachers.

It was, however, good news to many parents who had missed the admission because of admission age criteria, which was 6 years.

But the good news did not last long. Many schools could not take in all the additional students because of limited infrastructures to accommodate children.

Parents have begun complaining about their children not getting admission even after meeting the age criteria. They are now blaming the new policy.

The parents Kuensel talked to asked if the policy served its purpose. They argue that it guaranteed admission all those who had turned five years during the time of admission.

Many teachers and principals said they were not consulted, which is why implementation of the policy is becoming difficult today.

The decision was perhaps taken with good intention, they argue, but the government should have at least looked into the availability of teaching-learning materials before taking any decision. This includes stationery, teachers, and infrastructures.

Schools faced challenges while enrolling additional students. Schools received more than 100 students, especially in urban areas.

“Many parents are pressuring for admission because new policy allows them to admit children above 5-year old,” a principal said. “But how can we admit when there is no space and parents came rushing for the admission?”

Teachers say that schools are pressurised but space is the problem.

A teacher in Zhemgang said that lessons and work plans were prepared before the admission and distortions caused serious problems. “The decision keeps changing.”

Likewise, a teacher in Tashigang said that schools had to send back parents with the promise that they would admit the children when additional infrastructures are in place. “We had passed this message, as we were asked to fill a form as to how many additional infrastructures and teachers were required to take in additional students. Nothing happened later and the pressure kept building.”

A principal in Thimphu said that the schools usually used to be pressurised even during previous policy where many parents used to request to admit a child below six years, but the new policy made it worst.

Schools in Phuentsholing could not admit additional student because of lack of space and resources.

Schools in remote parts of the country are not facing the same problem, however.


Why is there this gap?

This is because education minister during one of the meet the press programmes said that although policy was changed, it was not compulsory to take in all the students this year.

A mother of 5.6-year-old, Kinley Wangmo, said that the government announcement came as if admission would not be a problem. She said the reality was different and questioned why the government did not study about space before changing the policy.

Ugyen Gyamtsho, a Thimphu resident said: “My son is 5.6, but he didn’t get admission. Why is there this confusion with the policy?”

Jigme Zangmo from Wangdue said that she was shocked to learn that the government was changing its stand repeatedly. “Are we to understand that the schools could choose to not take in all the students?”

The director general of school education, Karma Tshering, said that from 7,000, the schools have now managed to absorb in about 5,000 students.

This is an addition to about 13,000 class PP students admitted for 2020 academic session.

“We’ll need additional space and teachers to take in all the students. If there is no space, the students can be admitted next year so that students are not cramped,” he said.

Karma Tshering added that ministry had even studied the possibility to have pre-fab classrooms.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering in an earlier interview said that it was not wise to invest in millions for one-off need.

Director general of Royal Education Council, Kinga Drakpa, said that after reviewing curriculum for PP-III the council found that besides rectifying some of the languages for Mathematics, the present PP curriculum could be adapted by a 5-year-old student.