… however, no special treatment of teachers this time

KP Sharma

In an attempt to reach out and woo as many voters as they can, the five political parties are declaring their pledges all over, including some of the major and popular pledges in the education sector.

Education has become a highly focused and extensively discussed sector, with parties promising substantial transformation in the sector and garnering voter support.

Over the past fifteen years, such politically driven promises have often led to impractical policies and regulations by each government.

The absence of a well-defined education policy, the policy has remained as a draft since 2019, has created a loophole for political parties to twist and overturn policies to suit their narrative, according to the bureaucrats and relevant agencies.

While most of the political parties have pledged to review the existing individual work plan (IWP) and implement alternative measures, Bhutan Tendrel Party stands out by pledging to completely do away with it. However, the party president did not specify an alternative measure in its place.

In the past, the government’s attempt to eliminate the evaluation system which is criticised by some in the civil service as unfair has been hindered by the Royal Civil Service Commission’s autonomy and justifications.

Pledges like declaring Saturday as a day off, digitalisation of schools, enhancement of technical vocational education and training (TVET), early childhood care and development (ECCD) and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education have been included in most of the party’s manifesto.

Bhutan Tendrel Party and People’s Democratic Party promise to make contract teachers into regular or para-regular civil servants.

In contrast, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa in 2018 fought the election with the same pledge but was not successful due to RCSC’s mandate to hire certain employees on contract.

Bhutan Tendrel Party commits to establishing an education reform council and introducing a separate education bill to minimise political interference. It also pledges to provide a one-time allowance for teachers to purchase laptops.

In providing incentives to the schools, different approaches are seen such as BTP promises lunch in urban schools, PDP pledges to reinstate central schools with additional freebies and DNT aiming to introduce boarding facilities in selected schools of Thimphu for lower-income families.

Stipend increases for improved nutrition are common pledges from PDP, DPT and DNT.

The central schools initiated by PDP were discontinued by the third elected government due to budget constraints and also faced criticism from some sections of society for being unfair.

Regarding curriculum, Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa (DTT) commits to finalise Bhutan Baccalaureate, PDP promises international curricula such as Cambridge and the International Baccalaureate in schools, while the three other parties pledge major focus on STEM subjects and school digitalisation.

DPT, BTP, DTT and PDP commit to involving private schools in de-crowding classrooms and contributing to the private sector’s growth.

DNT, PDP, and DPT focus on improving teachers’ work environments pledging to deploy more administrative and support staff.

In the tertiary education sector, BTP and DPT focus on reinstating the arts and humanities courses and providing them the equal space and opportunities to thrive.

The pledges made by the political parties in the education sector are aimed at making the sector more attractive with a conducive environment for learning and the educational advancement of the learners.