The pandemic has hampered the construction of additional structures and hostels, and the government is unsure if it would be able to absorb all Class XI students in public schools, according to Sherig Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai.

“If the construction of additional classes and hostels are continuously disturbed then it’s likely we can’t absorb all students in public schools next year,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo had told the media a month ago that the government won’t provide scholarships for Class XI students to study in private schools from next year. The ministry placed about 1,700 students in private schools on scholarship.

Khar-Yurung MP Tshering Chhoden asked the minister if the government has enough infrastructure and facilities to accommodate all students from next year since it planned to absorb all students.

MP Tshering Chhoden said that many schools were already facing a shortage of teachers and limited infrastructure.

Lyonpo did not answer the question of if there were enough facilities. He said that although the ministry had targeted to send 1,500 students on scholarship this year, the number had to increase because of an “increase in pass percentage” where public schools couldn’t accommodate all.

Kengkhar-Weringla MP Rinzin Jamtsho also quizzed lyonpo on how the government would help private schools when all students were absorbed in public schools.

Lyonpo said that the government will not stop students from opting for private schools. “All private schools should change their business modality to attract students. If they do then the government can look into policies to help private schools and can help them.”

About 4,000 students benefited from the change in cut-off point policy. Lyonpo claimed that they would not have studied if not for the change in policy since the majority of these students cannot afford to study in private schools.

Meanwhile, given the increasing number of reports on teacher and principal shortage, Maenbi-Tsaenkhar MP Choki Gyeltshen asked the minister what the government’s plan was to address the shortage.

Lyonpo said that about 33 principals would be recruited in seven months, which is expected to ease the shortage. The delay in civil service examination this year due to the pandemic also affected the recruitment of teachers, the minister said.

The ministry is also planning to train about 157 unemployed teachers and place them on contract to replace those on extraordinary and maternity leave.

Another 193 teachers will complete their post-graduate diploma in education next month.

By Yangchen C Rinzin

Edited by Tshering Palden