The Ministry of Education (MoE) received an Executive Order from the Cabinet on 9 January 2020 stating that children attaining five years at the start of this academic session shall be entitled for admission into pre-primary class, and has asked the ministry to start working on bring the age of admission from 6 years to 5 years.
MoE has already started working on it and all the schools, both public and private, will be sent instruction to allow children who has attained the age five at the start of the academic session to be admitted to schools. The ministry will also issue a circular or notification in the media so that all the parents are also informed.
Education Policy Guideline and Instruction 2019 states a child who has attained the age of six at the start of the academic session shall be entitled for admission into pre-primary class. However, after all the eligible children have been admitted, if there is still space maintaining the class and boarding capacities, schools have discretion to admit children of five and half years old or older at the start of the academic session.
MoE already completed the admission of children to pre-primary schools by 15 December 2019 but it will reopen admission to children who have attained five years and to those who were denied admission because of limited seats.
Education Minister, Jai Bir Rai, said that the ministry has formed a task force to work on it and has already asked Thimphu Thromde to identify space.
Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai said that the task force members will see if more classrooms need to be created and more teachers recruited.
Lyonpo said, “As of now, we don’t know how many more students will be admitted to the schools. And since most parents want their children to study in urban centers, particularly Thimphu and Phuentsholing, children will be admitted to private schools as well. As there are not enough seats in government, I think all five years children will be admitted to private schools.”
Lyonpo said the rich parents can afford to send their children to private schools, therefore, the ministry will identify the urban poor and ensure their children get admitted in public schools.
This year, MoE is expecting around 15,000 to 16,000 students to be enrolled in pre-primary schools.
In 2019, there were 11,852 students enrolled in pre-primary schools. According to the ministry, there was a decrease in the enrollment in 2019 as compared to 2018, which was mainly due to the ministry’s initiative to encourage right age enrollment in PP where children of six years and above are enrolled in PP.
Lyonpo said that when the Prime Minister announced that the admission age will be reduced from six years to five years, in order to make it possible for students to join the National Service when the students turn 18 years after class XII, people assumed that the admission age was reduced because of the Gyalsung program, but there are so many factors.
Lyonpo said, “Since 1986, the admission age for pre-primary school was 6 years,and for about 34 years, we have been following the same policy. And the need to change the policy was felt necessary by the educationists. The other reason for changing the admission age was even the parents are ready for the change in the policy, and in the recent years, it was learnt that parents were changing the age of their children to get admission to school, at the age of four or five years. In addition, experts also discovered that admitting children to pre-primary school was appropriate.”