In a significant milestone for Bhutan, the highly anticipated Gyalsung National Service website was launched on 9 October 2023, allowing the eligible youth to register for the program.
As of midnight 12th October, a total of 457 males, including 529 females had enthusiastically enrolled in the Gyalsung program. The registration poured in from the Bhutanese youth residing both within the country and abroad.
Gyalsung is a visionary initiative conceptualized by His Majesty The King. Introduced through the Gyalsung Act enacted by the Parliament on 11 November 2022 with the aim to create a robust foundation for Bhutan’s future.
Unlike such programs in other countries, Gyalsung uniquely brings all Bhutanese youths with valid Citizenship Identity Cards (CID) into a shared experience. The experience is designed not only to impart essential skills, but also to strengthen the bonds among the youth and the nation.
One of the distinctive features of Gyalsung is its emphasis on providing lifelong skills to all eligible Bhutanese youths, regardless of their educational, social, regional, or linguistic backgrounds. It also encompasses a variety of activities, including basic military training, national education, life skills development, teamwork, and leadership training. The curriculum has been meticulously planned and documented, ensuring a comprehensive learning experience for all participants.
The first batch of Gyalsung is set to commence on 1 September 2024, with a four-and-a-half-month training course. Subsequently, the complete one-year training for the second batch will begin in March 2025 and conclude in January of the following year. All eligible Bhutanese citizens are mandated to enlist for Gyalsung upon reaching the age of 18.
The training, spread across Gyalsung academies located in different regions, includes three months of Basic Military Training (BMT), followed by one and a half months of National Education, Life Skills, Teamwork, and Leadership Skill Development programs.
Among many other activities that are being discussed, a notable one is a trek across Bhutan on the Trans Bhutan Trail. Cadets will be given an opportunity to walk across parts of the 403 Km trail or other prominent trails in the areas close to the Academies to appreciate the beauty, diversity and uniqueness of the country.
As per the Gyalsung Act, Gyalsung enrollment is mandatory for eligible Bhutanese citizens; there are specific exemptions in place. Individuals enrolled in monastic schools, those deemed medically unfit, and those pursuing college education or vocational training after completing class 12 in 2023 may be exempt. However, even those seeking exemptions must register before applying for this provision.
The academies, with a maximum capacity of 13,000 participants based on data from the health ministry, are gearing up for the first batch.
Despite the ample capacity, approximately 6,000 participants are expected in the initial phase due to exemptions and deferment options. The focus is on enrolling eligible youths who are out of school and fostering a unique ten-month training program.
Deferment, a key feature of Gyalsung, allows individuals to apply on a yearly basis, providing flexibility for personal circumstances. To secure deferment, applicants must submit their request at least six months before the forecasted enlistment date. However, failure to report for training or return to school for educational pursuits results in legal consequences, emphasizing the program’s seriousness.
Remarkably, individuals testing positive for narcotics, psychotropic substances, or alcohol during screening won’t face immediate disqualification. Instead, they receive supportive interventions through consultations with the PEMA Secretariat, demonstrating commitment to rehabilitation and inclusion.
Gyalsung National Service is a one-year integrated training program. This initiative includes three months of basic military training (BMT) across all academies, followed by two weeks of intensive national education. During these sessions, a profound sense of service and sacrifice will be instilled in participants, emphasizing the nation’s values.
Following BMT, participants will delve into four core areas of training, reflecting Bhutan’s strategic priorities. These areas encompass home security, emphasizing construction trades like carpentry and shelter building; food security, focusing on agriculture technology and resource-efficient techniques like drip agriculture; ICT security, recognizing the importance of future-based technologies such as cybersecurity and data science; and community security, honing first responder skills, forest fire management, search and rescue operations, public order maintenance, and health management.
During the registration process, participants are given the chance to express their preferences for specific skilling programs. However, equal distribution and placement are prioritized, meaning placement in preferred choices is not guaranteed, ensuring fairness and equal opportunity for all participants.
Gyalsung also allows proactive youth involvement, permitting individuals to volunteer for early registration at the age of 16 with parental or legal guardian consent. However, those serving prison terms for a third- and fourth-degree felony upon reaching 18 will miss this opportunity.
Gyalsung headquarters recently issued notices to eligible individuals, emphasizing that evading Gyalsung training constitutes an offense. Upon conviction, offenders face a fourth-degree felony charge as per the Penal Code.
Upon successful completion of the one-year training, graduates, known as Gyalsups, may be called for both mandatory and voluntary duties until the age of 35. Subsequently, they enter the Gyalsung Reserve phase until the age of 45. After this age, Gyalsung Reservists and those who missed Gyalsung may volunteer to join DeSuung, showcasing the program’s commitment to lifelong engagement and service.
Upon asking Chairperson Dasho Karma Tshiteem of the National Service Core Working Group (NSCWG) talking about the voluntary and mandatory services of Gyalsups, he said that volunteering for services that are voluntary services is a choice of the Gyalsups to do that or not. However, there are no exceptions to the mandatory services of Gyalsups.
The health ministry has currently located 26 centers across the nation. Each student in a school or a dropout is responsible for personally completing the sign-up, registration, and medical screening within the allotted period. The medical screening must be performed in Bhutan in accordance with the Gyalsung Medical Board’s authorization.
For Bhutanese youths living overseas, provisions have been made to facilitate the medical screening process closer to the enlistment date, reducing the need for travel to Bhutan. This ensures that Bhutanese nationals residing abroad can participate without significant logistical challenges.
Bhutan’s Gyalsung National Service program stands as a testament to the nation’s commitment to fostering a skilled, united, and empowered younger generation.