With all nine flagship programmes approved and budget allocated, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said there is no room for additional flagship programme during the review on education ministry’s Annual Performance Agreement (APA) 2019-2020 yesterday.

The education ministry had requested for critical support from the government to consider Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), as one of the flagship programmes.

“One of the flagships already includes enhancing capacity of teachers, which is aimed to upgrade teachers’ quality,” Lyonchhen said. “However, based on the impact, if education ministry feels the need for flagship is more in the STEM subjects, then we can discuss again.”

Presenting the APA, education ministry’s planning officer, Phurpa said that one of the critical supports required is directives on the continuity of scholarships to class X passed students in private schools.

Lyonchhen said, the government would continue the scholarship scheme. However, he reminded the ministry to look into up-gradation of private schools.

Some of the support the ministry requested for included the construction of new secretariat building for the ministry and increase of stipend for boarding students.

Lyonchhen agreed that there was a need for a new building and asked the ministry to identify a site. However, he indicated that it might not be located in the core city.

Among the APA targets, the ministry has set to increase net enrollment rate for ECCD by 32 percent for male and female students by the end of 2019-2020 year.  It has also targeted to increase girls scoring above 60 percent in STEM subjects in BCSE examination.

However, Lyonchhen said that the ministry should look into why girls are performing poorly in STEM subjects and what the ministry has done to ensure that they score better in these subjects.

The ministry has also targeted to reduce the number of students in informal boarding to 1,500 from 2,600 (2017) and meet the class size by 85 percent in primary and 55 percent in secondary schools.

On the target to reduce attempted suicide cases among students, Lyonchhen suggested that the ministry train counsellors who are able to recognise and help the students that are at risk instead of waiting for the students to come forward for counseling.

Another success indicator targeted is to decrease the number of youth in conflict with the law from 487 (2017) to 390.

Lyonchhen suggested the ministry to work along with the water flagship programme on its WASH programme and indicators, as there is a possibility that the water related budget might not come to the ministries.

One of the success indicators also include adequate number of teachers by subjects (shortage reduced) where it targets to reduce Dzongkha teacher attrition to 400 from 571, Science teacher to 80 from 150, and 66 from 111 general teachers.

Lyonchhen also reminded the ministry that the weightage for the minister should be more in enhancing teaching profession so that the minister can work hard to intervene through policies.

“I am reviewing all the APA targets before signing the document because I want to make sure that they have a space to re-appropriate or re-prioritise the activities, which is not possible once the APA is signed,” Lyonchhen said. “When I review and make comments for change, it doesn’t mean that you’re not doing your work.”

Lyonchhen said often the most important activity could get shelved, as it was missed out from the APA. He said it is important to review before signing because most APA indicators show the targets as achieved, which is not true on the ground thus indicating loopholes in the APA.

“It was also noticed that earlier there was a big gap between activities planned by the ministries and the finance ministry,” he said. “The APA was signed for the sake of signing where the media is called for coverage.”

Yangchen C Rinzin