Education Minister Norbu Wangchuk clarified that no schools would be asked to close down during the 12th Plan, according to the press release issued by the People Democratic Party’s media team.

One of the education officials earlier told Kuensel that to reduce workload of teachers, the education ministry plans to reduce the number of schools to about 200 by the end of 12th Plan.

The minister said that the closure of any school would be left to the communities and the parents would be given a choice to send their children to boarding school.

Lyonpo added that the local government would have to take in the consensus of the communities before initiating the closure of any school.

“However, we’ll establish an additional 60 Central Schools during the 12th Plan taking the number to 120 Central Schools in the country,” Lyonpo said. “There is also a plan to establish around 70 boarding primary schools with all the facilities of Central Schools.”

Lyonpo said that although this is one of the many strategies considered to reduce the workload of teachers, the closure of school would entirely depend on the communities.

“It was found that many parents prefer boarding schools especially for those students who have to walk to school for hours,” Lyonpo said. “So, coming up with many boarding facilities is to provide options to the parents, but it doesn’t mean we’ll ask communities to close the schools.”

A review report on the quality of education 2016 found that on average, teachers work 2.45 hours more than a general civil servant, 57.51 hours a week or 10.45 hours a day. The ministry plans to reduce contact teaching from 22 hours to 18 hours in the 12th Plan.

It was also found that teachers are given additional non-academic work, which drains the teachers’ time and energy.

Some of the other strategies to reduce the workload are providing separate warden, matron, caregivers, administrative staff and sufficient support staff.

According to the press release, the ministry plans to establish 10 special boarding schools catering to special communities such as the nomadic communities. This means the ministry will propose 200 boarding schools, including the expansion of the existing 60 central schools to the cabinet.

“The 96 extended classrooms and 250 primary schools shall continue to exist to serve the communities unless the communities desire any of them to be closed,” Lyonpo assured. “The ministry will respect the choice of the communities with regard to the closure of any school.”

The press release stated that parents would have the choice to admit their children in a larger boarding school or day school closer to the community.

However, the minister said that the ministry is in the process of finalising its 12th Plan, which would then be submitted to the Cabinet for approval.

There are today 584 schools in the country, including 96 extended classrooms, 20 autonomous schools, 51 central schools, and 513 other schools.

Yangchen C Rinzin