Private school owners cry foul 

Most private schools owners across the country who admitted class X students on government scholarship say the government did not keep its word on the fee structure and admission process.

Proprietors and principals Kuensel talked to said that the government initially agreed to provide scholarship of Nu 30,000 for day scholar and Nu 50,000 for boarder students and then parents would top up the remaining fees depending on respective school’s fee structure.

This was decided on February 4 during their meeting with the Prime Minister, which lasted until 8pm.

However, many proprietors were disappointed and surprised when the education ministry, deviating from the February 4 decision issued a notification on February 8 announcing that the students would be given full scholarship at Nu 30,000 and Nu 50,000.

The education ministry has placed 7,808 of the total 12,033 students who passed the 2018 class X examination in public higher secondary schools. The government provided full scholarship to the remaining 4,225 students in 21 private schools. However, five schools did not agree with the ministry’s scholarship offer.

Although 16 private schools are yet to compile the final list of students they admitted on scholarship, most principals said the schools did not get the allocated number of students, as was agreed in their meeting.

Many schools are today short of more than 50 students. Although some schools did not share information as of yesterday, Kuensel learnt that about 3,632 students were admitted in 18 schools.

“It was never a full scholarship. After we didn’t agree at the meeting, it was kept as half scholarship,” a proprietor based in Thimphu said. “After two days, everything changed and the decision became invalid.”

Another private school proprietor in Thimphu said that some schools started receiving calls from the education ministry where they were coerced to agree with the ministry’s proposal.

Many claimed that they were forced to accept the proposal with threats that if they did not, they would not get the students.

“I received a call saying that some schools have already agreed and that if I would be interested,” a proprietor based in Phuentsholing said. “We were not even given a day to rethink on the second proposal and since others had agreed, I had no choice.”

However, some schools did not receive the call from the ministry but agreed later. They later found that none of the schools had agreed and that the officials who called each of them had lied.

A principal in Paro said that they are not sure where the students who didn’t show up got admitted.

“It would have been more convenient if the placement was left to the students,” another principal in Thimphu added.

Few private school owners said that schools with boarding facilities benefitted more than day scholars and that the modality implemented itself was flawed and wrong.

“It was first called vouchers and later half scholarship and finally a full scholarship.  It was not fair for the government to say that those who did not agree to their offer are quality school swith good infrastructure when we have also invested a lot,” a proprietor in Thimphu said.

The fees paid by the ministry would have cost implications and although the schools did not retrench teachers this time, many said that they might have to do it next year. 

Education ministry officials were not available for comments. The ministry has asked all schools to submit the list of admitted students by March 11.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering told Kuensel that it is true that the government had initially agreed to allow students to top up the fees.

Lyonchhen said that later he changed the stand because after agreeing to the initial offer, many schools withdrew from the deal.

“They were arguing from the business point while I was arguing from the students’ point so that students are not forced to top up,” Lyonchhen said. “When they withdrew, I told the education ministry to withdraw the top up and accordingly, officials called each school to bargain and to agree with the scholarship package.”

Lyonchhen said that although 11 schools had agreed to the government’s offer, they could not absorb all thec 4,225 students. The government then decided to remove the top up costs and the schools later agreed with the package.

“I agreed to the top up proposal thinking that we would have enough seats. On this front, if they are not happy with me, they are right, but what we did was for the students’ benefit.”

Lyonchhen said that the admission had to be placed by ministry so that it is regionally balanced.

In an earlier interview with Kuensel, he said that doing away with the class X cut off point needed the outmost attention and was implemented before 2020.

“When the results were about to be declared, when we heard that there would be 4,300 students who will not be going to class XI, I said, we are going to do it this academic session. The only thing that we needed was money.”

Lyonchhen said he discussed with the education minister where he was told that if the government providesdmoney, the ministry could implement the decision rather than letting students hit the street.

“I bulldozed it this time. We are going to do it next year anyway so why let these students consider themselves unfortunate. That’s why we will do what is the right thing, not just what is popular.”

Yangchen C Rinzin

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