PSAB appeals to PM

Yangchen C Rinzin  

The Private School Association of Bhutan (PSAB) has requested the Prime Minister (PM) to do away with the Class X cut-off policy or give them time to remodel their plans in a petition they submitted to the PM earlier this week.

The association are still waiting for a response.

PSAB met with the Prime Minister on November 5, where they submitted a concept paper, a situational analysis of how the government’s cut-off point decision affected private schools. The Prime Minister asked them to come up with the proposal that the government could consider.

Except for a few schools, most claimed that they are running on loss after the government did away with the cut-off point this year and enrolled 7,808 class XI students in public (government) schools earlier this year. The 21 private schools received only 4,225 students on government scholarship paying Nu 30,000 each for day scholars and Nu 50,000 for boarders.

Association’s members said that with the government’s plan to absorb another 2,500 students in the public schools by 2020 and all the students by 2021, private schools were left with no choice, but to appeal to the Prime Minister.

PSAB’s general secretary, Tshering Dorji, said the sudden change in the cut-off policy did not give schools enough time to strategise the exit plan.

“The government has failed to take into many considerations and if the government absorbs all the students, it would mean many private schools might have to close,” he said. “The private schools who are in business for the last 34 years that served its purpose are now being killed.”

Tshering Dorji said they first appealed to the education minister with the proposal, but since the ministry did not respond, they appealed to the Prime Minister.

Private schools’ proprietors also questioned the capacity of the education ministry to take in all the students especially in terms of infrastructure and teachers.

The association submitted two proposals.


Withdrawing the cut-off policy 

The association has asked the government to completely withdraw the cut-off point system to “its full potential,” which means there will be no cut-off point. Instead, all the 13,779 students (currently studying in class X) who pass the examination should be provided with an “education voucher” to continue their studies.

“The education ministry should not attempt to distribute students. Instead, each student should have the freedom to choose a school in either private or public, based on preference and convenience, as per the policy for public schools,” the proposal stated.

However, the schools must take students as per the capacity and the scholarship amount should be revised according to the proposal.

The association claims that the advantage of this would pressure schools to perform better and improve quality to attract students.

“This will result in better quality,” a member said.


Time to adjust

The association has asked the government to give time to schools to remodel their plans, which could be achieved by postponing the government’s plan to absorb another 1,500 students for the 2020 academic session.

The association has expressed that because of such abrupt change in the policy, many private schools would become bankrupt, affecting more than 1,000 employees.

The association also proposed that owing to less number of students, a ceiling should be established to allocate students to each school. For instance, distributing students among the 21 private schools to ensure no child is left out.

While appreciating the government’s initiative, the association submitted that the present segregation of students based on academic marks is an indication the cut-off point has not been done away.


Do away the BCSE examination

The association mentioned that students do not take the exam seriously after the new policy. They reasoned the Class X common examination was conducted to screen students based on academic performance, as the placement seats were limited in government schools.

It also proposed to cancel the BCSE examination, which would eliminate the cut-off issue.

“Through this, it would reduce the government’s investment by taking advantage of existing facilities and infrastructures in the private schools,” the proposal stated. “It would also save cost of conducting the BCSE examination.”

The general secretary said they are yet to hear from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and are still waiting for the response.

An official from the PMO said that the office has received the proposal and it has been forwarded to the education ministry to study on the possibilities based on the proposal.

“We’re yet to hear from the education ministry,” the official said.


Two private schools proposed to surrender 

Meanwhile, Kelki High School in Kanglung has approached the education minister to take the school, as it is running into loss. Another school, Sherab Reldri in Mongar has also approached the Prime Minister.

The proprietor of Sherab Reldri has asked the government to take the school on lease or work in partnership to utilise the schools’ infrastructure for educational activities or for TVET.

One of the proprietors said that the appeal was made as a desperate measure, as the school is running into loss and they are not able to repay the loan.

Another said the school received less number of students this year, which is not able to make up for their investment in the school.

It was learnt that three teachers have already left voluntarily while the school had to retrench four more staff in Kelki school in Thimphu.