Promoting Dzongkha, the national language, should not be left to the government alone.

This was the message from Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering as the national language comes under the radar of parliamentarians once again while discussing the 12th Plan. “If the elected members put their concerns into actions and if every Bhutanese esteem the national language, the government need not put in place a separate policy or rules to promote Dzongkha,” said the prime minister.

In doing so, promoting Dzongkha would be the easiest task to achieve as one of the indicators of the 12th Plan’s key result area on culture preservation and promotion, according to the Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering.

“Economy of scale, he said has impeded both trade and farming. Promoting Dzongkha is also confronted with similar challenges,” Lyonchhen said. “Because usage of Dzongkha is only limited to Bhutan, it is difficult to make a living by learning Dzongkha alone,” he said.

Notwithstanding the fact that Dzongkha is an alien language when it comes to foreign dealings, Lyonchhen said that it has improved. Written Dzongkha, he said is exceptionally well scripted in various documents. Spoken, he added, could be heard in every speech many Bhutanese deliver.

“Yet, we still feel it is not enough. Where is the gap?” he said.

Lyonchhen pointed out that every citizen is responsible to promote the country’s language culture. “If we are concerned, we must practise what we preach instead of leaving it to the government,” he said.

On the policy front, he acknowledged that there is a lack of coordination among the stakeholders like home ministry, Dzongkha Development Commission and education ministry.

Home Minister, Sherab Gyeltshen said that Dzongkha as a subject is not rewarding. In schools, he said every other subject is taught in English, which is given top priority. “We have set a wrong precedent,” he said adding English has become the official language in every official meeting and daily order of business in every agency. Likewise, he said that every Bhutanese product is labelled in English and other agencies like the trade department could also contribute in promoting Dzongkha.

Education system, the home minister said is the key in promoting Dzongkha. However, he said there are no jobs that require a background in Dzongkha in today’s job market. The Royal Civil Service Commission, he said must look into exploring jobs that would require Dzongkha expertise to encourage students take up courses in Dzongkha.

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said that some 45 recommendations were given to the DDC in the 10th Plan. “The 11th Plan failed to implement these recommendations, which could have affected promoting Dzongkha.”

One of the indicators under the National Key Result Area in the 12th Plan is to ensure that 95 percent of People enjoy sufficiency in speaking native language. The Opposition Leader questioned whether such indicators were measurable. For instance, another target is to bring the percentage of population meeting sufficiency threshold of knowledge and practice of Driglam Namzha to 50 percent.

Home Minister, however said that there is already a baseline defined by the GNH survey. Proficiency in speaking, he said is already high and now the focus should be in reading and writing.

MP Dorji Wangdi also suggested on setting a minimum proficiency to speak Dzongkha and introducing radio program in local dialects like Khengkha.

While an amount of Nu 2.2B has ben earmarked to promote and preserve culture in the 12th Plan, challenges are aplenty.

The 12th Plan document states that many of the rich historical, cultural and spiritual sites that existed for centuries are under continuous threat from both natural and manmade disasters. These monuments are exposed to a range of disasters such as earthquakes, fires, windstorms, and landslides. Conservation, restoration, and making these sites disaster resilient are critical. In addition, meeting the financial resources for restoration and preservation of cultural infrastructure is a recurring challenge.

Tshering Dorji