There are 554 teachers in secondary private schools

Phurpa Lhamo

Sonam (name changed) in central Bhutan is the lone bread earner in a family of five siblings.

Her father is a retired personnel and her sister, who worked abroad, returned home because of the pandemic.

Sonam, 26, is worried.

With the closure of the government scholarship scheme to private schools this year, many private schools across Bhutan are on the verge of closing.

She said that while the school management or the proprietor has not conveyed such indications, she said there was no new admission in class XI in the school this year.

“I am very stressed. If the school shuts, I will have to go to the village to my parents,” Sonam said. Her other four siblings are also with her parents.

Another teacher in the south is looking for a job but in futile.

He said he has a family to feed and poor parents to serve. “When I think too much about school closure, it makes me sick.”

In 2019, the government decided to remove cut-off points and enrol all class XI students in government schools. However, due to the lack of infrastructure in government schools, the government sent 2,088 students to private schools under government scholarships in 2020. In 2021, more than 2,250 students were sent to private schools.

This year, the government decided to stop the enrollment of students in private schools under government scholarship as the government schools could absorb all class XI students.   

While there are 10,254 seats in public schools, only 8,797 class X students passed in the 2021 academic year.

Another private school teacher said with decreasing number of students in the private school he worked, the school management removed five teachers in 2020.

However, when the government provided private schools with students under government scholarship, a few teachers were recruited.

“There is no job security at all,” the teacher said.

He added that the school might soon issue notice about closing the school. “My wife is a housewife and I have two children.”

Education statistics 2021 stated that there are 554 teachers in secondary private schools. There are 21 private secondary and middle secondary schools in Bhutan.

In an earlier interview, a proprietor of a private school in Thimphu said that the number of students in private schools had dropped from around 11,000 about five years ago to about 4,500 in 2021.

In a private school, there are 90 class XII students this academic year. This is a decrease from around 300 before the removal of the cut-off points and the government’s decision to enrol all students in government schools.

The proprietor of the school said that a few teachers will have to be laid off to manage expenses.

Another proprietor said that he did not decide on a way forward for the teachers and the closure of the school.

He added that he was waiting for more repeaters in class XII to retain all teachers in the school.

With only around 120 students, the proprietor said that there was excess staff currently.

Private school proprietors pointed out that private schools were encouraged when the government didn’t have enough schools or when students left for aboard to pursue education.

A proprietor said that opening a private school in rural areas was encouraged by the previous government to also help rural-urban migration.

However, one of the private schools in Trashigang operated only for two years before it was closed due to lack of enrollment.

Another proprietor said that after the private schools supported the education system for years, the government was deserting the private sector. “If this was the plan, then a proper phase-out plan should have been in place and private school owners should have been informed in the very beginning. No one would have built these schools in that case.”

A proprietor said that if the school close down, it would be nice if the government could take the teachers. “We have many experienced and trained teachers.”