Tshering Palden

Education officials have said that students, applying for government undergraduate scholarships in professional studies outside the country, will need a minimum score of 55 percent in English, refuting rumours that the qualifying mark had been reduced.

“After the analysis of class XII (BHSCE) 2007 examination results, we found out that there are enough candidates already qualifying for the scholarships,” said the chief program officer of the scholarship division, Karma Jurmin. English is a compulsory subject for students, whether opting for further studies or admission into colleges in Bhutan.

That the minimum requirement in English may be lowered gained currency after the poor performance in English in the class XII (BHSCE) 2007 examination. More than 30 percent of the 5,027 students, who sat for the examination, scored in the 40s. The highest mark secured in English was 86. Education officials said that this was partly due to a change in the curriculum and the teaching and assessment methods.

Some students will, however, miss the opportunity to study out-side the country on education scholarships. Of the 354 students, who rank in the top fifty positions, with a score of 72.75 percent, 32 students failed to fetch the required criterion of 55 percent in English.

“I thought there would be some reduction in the percentage since most students couldn’t score in English,” said Sonam Dorji, one amongst many expecting the reduction. He scored 54 in English and the rest of the subjects all in the 70s.

A majority, 97 of the 128 slots for professional studies abroad, are for science students in medicine, engineering, IT, biological sciences and education. The rest are in the open category and students from any subject background may apply.

Students, without the required aggregate in English, said that they were also at a disadvantage in the race to tertiary institutions within the country. “I feel insecure as it seems there’ll be tough competition even for the colleges inside Bhutan,” said a nervous Thinley Dema, who has scored in the 60s except for English.

Dechen Dorji, a civil servant, said that his son wants to apply for B. Ed. but feels uneasy because of his low marks in English. “I’m thinking of sending him to India if he doesn’t get to college here,” said the worried father.

Meanwhile, Sonam Dema is contemplating her future. The 17-year-old girl scored 90 percent in Accounts and 73 percent in Mathematics but, with a mere 42 percent in English, she is keeping her fingers crossed for a seat in the new college at Gedu. “It would be a big blow,” she said.