The government has made remarkable progress in ensuring access to education, the annual State of Tsa-Wa-Sum 2015 report claimed. With 551 schools and 107 extended classrooms, almost every child in Bhutan is in school in accordance with the country’s principle that every citizen must be given an opportunity to be educated and trained.
Some 172,303 students were enrolled from Pre-Primary (PP) School through Class XII and the net enrollment rate is 98.7%, according to the report. There are 8,572 teachers and the student-teacher ratio was 20:1.
The Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay pointed that the government had also achieved significant success in expanding access to the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). There are 210 ECCE centers in 2014 compared to 165 in 2013 and 32% of those centers are run by the private participation. Lyonchhen said, “We have lain by ushering in new plans, strategies and preparations that reflect the changing realities as well as the new opportunities and challenges that they bring.”
The report shows the government has launched several far-reaching initiatives such as the Education Blueprint, the 10-year strategic plan formulated through nation–wide consultations, seeking to further improve the overall quality of education by addressing the four educational dimensions of access, quality, equity, and support efficiency through strategic interventions and initiatives to be implemented. The Royal Education Council has been accorded autonomy over both human and financial to facilitate independent researches so that it can provide the government with objective feedback and recommendations to improve all aspects of education system in the country.
The report also mentions about the School Reform Program that was initiated in 2014 to enhance efficiency and quality of educational outcomes as well as ensuring sustainability of service provision. A key element of the program involves the consolidation of schools into Central Schools for PP to Class X or Class XII, with the provision of boarding and bussing services where necessary. The Program is being implemented on a pilot basis, with a total of 24 schools in 2014 and 25 this year. A funding of Nu.4.3bn has been provided by the Government of India (GOI) to assist the program. In addition to establishing central schools, 45 schools operate as an “autonomous school” with greater financial, management and human resource autonomy to promote greater accountability.
Another development is the school feeding system. Vitamin B-complex is being provided to all students to prevent incidences of periphery neuropathy, which had affected 36 students. The Centralized School Feeding Program was instituted from July 2014 to achieve the economy of scale in food procurement, fortify food commodities and improve the quality of food commodities. Further, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between the Ministry of Education and Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited to procure, store and distribute food commodities to schools. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests is going to provide pullets in some schools on pilot basis to ensure that every child gets 3 eggs a week, according to the Prime Minister.
In terms of studying materials, the report states the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Library will be relocated to a bigger building to accommodate more books and more readers. The e-library, which was donated by India during the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bhutan and is going to be launched this year, will significantly enhances access to learning materials and use of ICT in all schools and colleges. The e-library will cover 49 schools and colleges.
The report addresses, regarding higher education, that the government will continue to support Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) which now has around 10,000 students enrolled in 8 colleges. Some 82 % of those receive government scholarship. RUB requires adequate resources to improve teacher conditions and facilities and the government is, therefore, supporting the increase in student fees from an average of Nu.67, 000 per student per year to about Nu.78, 000. It has paid more than Nu.700mn this year in fees. To enable students who do not receive scholarships to go to the university, the government has provisions for student loans. So far, 47 students have availed loans totaling Nu.4.7mn. The government has also established Research Endowment to encourage and support research in various fields.
The government will accord high priority to promoting private colleges. The report emphasizes there is a tremendous opportunity for private colleges as currently more than 5,275 Bhutanese are studying abroad. While existing polices encourage and the establishment of private colleges the government is looking at additional incentives.
The report also highlights that number of schools catering to children with special needs has increased from five in the 10th FYP to seven in 2015 and various support systems are also being put in place.