On 17 December 2019 during the 112th National Day of Bhutan, His Majesty The King announced the launch of Gyalsung, Bhutan’s national service to the country. To further strengthen the security, peace, unity, harmony, and sovereignty of our country, His Majesty has envisioned Gyalsung as a way to enable all Bhutanese youths to participate in nation-building.
Gyalsung is a year-long mandatory program for the youth of Bhutan who are of age 18, and if they are in school, provided that they have completed class 12.
According to the latest census data, a total of 12,973 individuals are eligible for the Gyalsung program. As of 7 February 2024, out of this total, 12,184 people have successfully registered, while there are still 789 individuals who have not yet completed the registration process.
The maximum number of Gyalsars that the Gyalsung Academies can accept each year is 13 thousand, therefore, there must always be an eligible age cohort.
As per the Gyalsung Act of Bhutan 2022, it is required for a person to be 18 years old to undergo Gyalsung training. Only people born in 2005 are eligible for the 2024 inaugural cohort, and registration for the training is required.
On the other hand, individuals who finish class 12 and were born after 2005 are also eligible to enroll via the early enlistment route. Similarly, those who turn eighteen, but are still enrolled in school and have not finished Class 12 must register and then apply for deferment to postpone their Gyalsung, allowing them to undergo the deferment procedure after they finish class 12.
Chairperson, National Service Core Working Group, Dasho Karma Tshiteem, emphasized, “For those born in 2005, 2006, 2007, completing Class 12 in 2023, Gyalsung HQ grants a one-time exemption from the Gyalsung Program for further education pursuit.”
He detailed the process, stating that requests must be submitted via the exemption module on the Gyalsung Portal with the individual’s Class 12 results, Tertiary Education Institution (TEI) acknowledgment of application, or a declaration of intent.
Additionally, Dasho Karma Tshiteem noted, “For college admissions in 2024 the students are required to do on their own and from 2025, Gyalsung Academies will assist in further studies, facilitating admissions while in the Academy, including TEI-recognized tests and interviews.”
There are three major differences between the inaugural batch (2024 Intake) and the subsequent Gyalsung batches.
Firstly, the inaugural batch will commence in September 2024; whereas subsequent batches will commence in March every year.
Secondly, the Gyalsung training duration for the inaugural batch will be four and a half months only. Given the shorter duration, the cadets will undergo four and half months of Basic Military Training (BMT), National Education, and other activities. The skilling component (ICT, Home Security, Community Security, and Food Security) will be introduced only from 2025 onwards.
Thirdly, there is also a one-time exception for the inaugural batch, particularly for the youth born in 2005 and 2006 wishing to continue higher education after class 12. However, this is subject to approval upon receiving the application for exemption.
Future Gyalsars share their opinion on the National Service.
Sonam Choki Dorji, a class 12 graduate from the Samtengang Higher Secondary School said, “The Gyalsung project offers a unique learning experience and promises invaluable insights spanning technology, combat, health, and more.”
Additionally, she said, “The time gap between now and the training promotes mental toughness, which is essential for the vigorous training that lies ahead. While my parents worry about my well-being and the intensity of the program, they also see the opportunities it presents.”
She mentioned, “Being eligible for Gyalsung is an opportunity to serve my country and acquire unmatched skills. Despite my worries, I hope to have a rewarding experience and make a significant contribution to our country.”
Likewise, Tandin Gyeltshen, a recent graduate from The Royal Academy said, “I hope to learn a
lot and get insightful information from the Gyalsung initiative. It will instill in me the values of accountability, punctuality, and self-care. It will also stress how important it is to respect people in all facets of life.”
Moreover, he said, “I feel very lucky and blessed to be part of the Gyalsung Program. Furthermore, it presents a chance for me to improve upon who I am. I believe that attending Gyalsung will simplify my life going forward.”
Deki Wangmo, a class 12 graduate from The Royal Academy said, “I was initially thrilled about participating in the Gyalsung program, unfortunately, I found out that I’m not eligible for it. So, I’ve decided to proceed with my college applications and pursue further studies.”
Furthermore, she said, “The Gyalsung project is intended for all 12th-grade graduates, but this year, certain criteria have been imposed. Unfortunately, since I was born in 2004, I am also ineligible for Gyalsung.”