But many schools fret as they do not have the infrastructure to have exams in containment mode
The board exam for class X and XII scheduled to commence from mid-February will not be deferred and it will be conducted on the set date.
The Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said there are about 2,200 class X and XII students who will be sitting for board exams and most of them are in boarding schools and rest of the students who are not in boarding schools will be facilitated by transferring them to boarding schools. And in each school, 60 to 80 teachers are required and all of them will be inside the campus and the exams will be conducted together.
Those students who have contracted the disease will be isolated and will be invited on board to take the exam according to the health ministry’s guidelines. There will be inconvenience caused for those students who are COVID-19 positive but there are no options left than to conduct the exams altogether.
The Prime Minister said transferring students of private schools into the government schools for the board exam would cost about 1.5 million and the government has agreed to support them. Otherwise, deferring exam dates will also have the same expenses as these students will have to be provided online classes which means the students will also require internet data. So the government has decided to conduct the board exams on a set date.
The Bhutanese interviewed a few schools and they shared that they are quite comfortable for now and are hoping that the situation will come under control while those schools without boarding facilities are not sure whether they can conduct board exams in a containment mode with limited resources and infrastructure.
The Principal of Gelephu Higher Secondary School, Shambay Dawa said that since the COVID-19 situation is unpredictable and Gelephu Thromde may be under lockdown, the school has come up with contingency plans and is exploring options. The Principal said class X and XII students did not have their winter vacation as it was expected that someday Gelephu will have positive cases as they share a porous border.
However, the school has already covered class X and XII syllabus and are done with the revisions starting from December 2021.
“We are quite comfortable and we can afford to go online for now because all the revisions are done and now it is the student’s responsibility to prepare for their board examinations,” said the Gelephu Principal.
The Principal still worries about the board exams if the positive cases from the community keeps coming up.
With consultation with other private schools in the Gelephu Throm, since class XI students of private schools are still on vacation, he has asked if they can accommodate class X and XII students of Gelephu High School there then they might conduct board exams there as they have the capacity to accommodate.
He said conducting board exams in a containment mode is not feasible as the school is not built for this kind of situation, and containment would have huge expenditure. There are more than 400 class X and XII students and it is not possible for all 400 students to be accommodated in the classrooms including their teachers, it will be very inconvenient, he added.
The second option would be for students to sit for exams in the schools as usual.
The third option is that Gelephu has other middle and lower schools which are not yet open so they might seek help from those schools where they will segregate students of classes X and XII, in containment mode.
“Other schools which are till class X are manageable but having had class X and XII the numbers are huge and it is quite difficult to manage,” said the Principal.
The school has put up their suggestions to the higher authorities and it is yet to be confirmed, said the principal.
While Principal of Samtse Higher Secondary School, Tshueltrum Dorji said due to 72-hour blackout, they could not start their coaching classes. Hopefully everything will go well and if the lockdown is lifted then they can immediately start with their revision, solving past question papers and clearing doubts.
Since Samtse does not have any private schools and also has insufficient space to keep children in containment, the school does not have any other options than to wait for directives from the education ministry.
“We don’t have any plans as of now but if the lockdown extends, we have to look for other options like conducting online examinations following the directives from the Ministry of Education and BHSEC. We just got a message from the MOE to continue the classes online until the blackout period is over. The challenges we face right now are for the approximately 240 students of 10 and 12 as we are supposed to prepare them to appear the broad examination and the other challenge is that we may have to keep the students in self-containment for them to appear for the examination incase the lockdown gets extended,” said the Principal.
Similarly, Thromde Education Officer of Samdrup Jongkhar, Dorji Gyalpo said the students of Samdrup Jongkhar MSS were supposed to report to school on 15th January but they had to postpone the date to 19th January due to three-days blackout.
The school in the Samdrup Jongkhar Thromde will continue in a self-containment mode if the lockdown further extends. Having a total of 68 class X students, it is manageable and they can have all the students in their school. While schools which have boarding facilities will be in a self-contained mode, said Thromde Education Officer.
While, an Official Page on Facebook of the private schools posted that there will be approximately 30,000 students appearing for the X and XII exams in about 300 schools and the solution is not so easy to put together. Most schools are non-residential and putting them in containment mode will require plenty of resources and time to prepare for. Under the current restrictions, none of it seems possible.
They stated that in the middle of another wave of Omicron infections, they are not prepared to find a solution for conducting exams.
Schools are being asked to choose options such as studying and writing their papers in “containment mode” without the ability to move around to make such preparations, or the budget to finance such preparations.
Meanwhile the ministry of education is worried about the board exams and reopening of schools with the increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases in many dzongkhags.
The education minister Jai Bir Rai said if the COVID-19 situation does not improve, then the reopening of schools might be deferred only in the affected areas while schools in other dzongkhags which fall under the safer zones will open on the given date.