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The reports of teacher shortage to lack of basic necessaries in the schools to poor quality of education have become a norm now. Enactment of the Right to Education law may be a solution to these ever-increasing challenges. In absence of such a law, our education is falling prey to political gimmicks. For example, the first government initiated extended classrooms and mandatory meditation in all schools, the Second government started central schools and the current government did away with cut off points for class ten in the name of reforming education and free access to education. However, such decisions are results of political manifestos or promises and imposed through bureaucracy with no regard to continuity and long-term vision. In short, our education has become susceptible to political viruses and infection suffering from unknown destiny like a cancer. 

The current political experiment on education undermines the constitutional spirits. Article 9 Section 15 of our constitution mandates the state to “provide education for improving and increasing knowledge, values and skills of the entire population with education being directed towards the full development of the human personality.” With uncertain destiny and political infection, these goals are remaining a distant dream.  Section 16 mandates free education for all Bhutanese at least to the tenth standard. Free education does not mean the mere existence of physical infrastructure or human resources. Free education means free access to education with quality and continuity. 

His Majesty’s Royal Kasho on Education Reform stated, “our generation has the sacred responsibility of radically rethinking our education system and transforming curriculum, infrastructure, classroom spaces, and examination structures” to “problem-solvers” to exploration to the creation of knowledge rather than making them mere consumers of it.” However, with frequent change in policies by political rulers, our students have become mere consumers.  This is because, when the education system is left to the whims and fancies of political parties, their primary objective being to win an election and cling to that power by any means and to fulfil their pledges for their next election, education policies are tuned with politically motivated visions and vested interests of political parties in power or attempting to come to power.  It is no secret that when everything is left to political parties, any decisions proposed based on research are either deliberately forgotten or least considered unless such research or studies complements their agenda. 

Enacting a Right to Education Act will not solve all problems but will at least prevent abrupt politically motivated decisions and ensure continuity, protect long-term objectives, and maintain quality and consistency. Such law will also promote the independence of teaching-learning experience, foster a culture of long-term educational reforms based on research, and help fulfil the constitutional objectives for “improving and increasing knowledge, values and skills of the entire population with education being directed towards the full development of the human personality.”   

We must not let our education system become a guinea pig for political parties or fall victim to any political game. As His Majesty said, “the new vision for our education system must encompass the drive to create enlightened citizenship that is as much local as it is trans-local” to strengthen the “quality of our democracy and secure our sovereignty.”  With three political parties in power thus far, education has suffered enough. Therefore, the Right to Education Act has become a necessity. 

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.

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