432 are coming back for now
As of 31 December 2019, a total of 3,930 students are studying abroad. As per the data maintained by MoE, there are 821 scholarship students funded by Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE), 107 students funded by Youth Welfare Education Organization (YWEO), 26 students funded by Loden Foundation, 337 students funded by RCSC, 42 students by Tarayana foundation, 25 students by Youth Development Fund (YDF) and 2572 students went for studies (Self-Funding) from Education Consultancy and Placement Forms (ECPF) to 27 countries and others. Other than DAHE, the various agencies are not administered under MoE.
There are 1,655 students studying in India followed by 1,398 studying in Australia and 227 in Thailand. There are also students studying in Hong Kong, Spain and Italy.
Education Minister JB Rai said a total of 1,057 Bhutanese students across the world are affected due to the closure of their universities for two weeks or more in order to prevent the COVID-19 from spreading.
Out of 3,930 students abroad, 432 students are returning back and some of them have already reached Bhutan and are kept in quarantine, said Lyonpo JB Rai.
He said that students who wished to return back home have registered with the ministry. There are about 575 registered, out of which 432 are students studying in India, Bangladesh, Canada, USA, UK, Malaysia and others.
Lyonpo said that in times of emergency, life-saving is more important. Secondary, is the education. Therefore, DAHE has been working with the college president and dean of academic affairs and concerned officials. Some of the students who have returned back and are in quarantine, and also those who are on their way, are using Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) since they are in college. They have been given assignments to work while the universities abroad remain closed. Those students who are stranded on their way must contact their respective embassies so they can be taken under care.
As and when the situation gets stable, the students will return back to their respective colleges, said the education minister.
The ministry had earlier planned for 821 students who went for studies through DAHE. The students who went for their studies through other agencies had never registered or given any information to MoE. Only after the COVID-19 situation, all the parents, students and agencies came forward to seek help with the ministry.
Meanwhile, the education minister requested all students returning back to update and reveal their travel history and also not to panic.
Lyonpo said that the government will help the students who have stayed back in their colleges or universities aboard, and if that country goes into a lock down then the students must contact him or their respective Bhutanese embassy if any help is needed.