The National Council on 15th February had sent a letter to the government expressing its concerns on the Government’s decision to remove cut-off point for Class X students.
The National Council, in the letter, expressed deep concerns on the government’s decision to remove cut-off point for Class X students commencing from 2019 academic year.
It said that while the government may have hurried on this decision to meet a campaign pledge, such major policy decision merit greater consultation, adequate research and study on the wider implications.
The National Council said it would like to highlight its concern over legitimacy of the policy on the grounds of four procedural lapses.
The first was non-adherence to the ‘Protocol for Policy Formulation’. The letter said that taking cognizance of a larger ramification, a change in any public policy required adherence to the “Protocol for Policy Formulation” adopted in 2008 and revised in 2015.
It said the primary objective of the protocol is to ensure that any public policy introduced or revised by the government, is done systematically and professionally based on a thorough assessment of its necessity and implications on larger national goals.
It is also to curtail any unwarranted practice of introducing a public policy in haste that may be driven by the short-term vested political interest.
“The protocol lays down comprehensive steps for a proposed policy to adhere to prior to obtaining an approval for its final implementation. While the removal of cut-off point for Class X students to enter Class XI is a major public policy shift initiated by the current government, the policy change has not followed due process of the established protocol,” says the letter.
The second lapse was non-adherence to resolution of the 19th National Education Conference.
The NC said that after thorough discussion on the issue during the 19th National Education Conference, it was resolved that the removal of cutoff point may be implemented from 2020 academic session onwards after conducting a thorough review on the possibility of instituting new curriculum on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), and by engaging private schools in the discussion.
“However, launching the policy in great haste in 2019 clearly defies the resolution of the 19th National Education Conference, which is supposedly binding on to the implementing agency,” says the letter.
The third lapse as per the letter is a lack of adequate debate during the National Assembly session. Here the NC letter pulls up both the government and the Opposition party.
The letter says that during a Question Time sessions of the first sitting of the National Assembly of the Third Parliament held in January 2019, a member of Opposition Party had questioned the government whether the removal of cut off point for Class X students to enter Class XI would be implemented starting from 2019 academic session. It says the response of the Minister for Education confirmed that it would be implemented starting from 2019 academic session.
“According to the Section 118 of the National Assembly Act 2008, if the response is unsatisfactory, the questioner with the permission of the Speaker, can call for a debate in the House on the issue. However, the questioner had neither expressed dissatisfaction with the response nor had called for debate in the House. Consequently, a thorough debate on the policy was not held in the National Assembly,” says the letter.
The fourth issue pointed out by the NC is that the budget was not appropriately reflected in Budget Appropriation Bill 2018-19.
“While initiating any plan based on policy in the country, it requires budget for execution. As per the provisions of the Constitution of Bhutan and the Public Finance Act, any state expenditure shall not be drawn from the Consolidated Fund except through approval of the Parliament. However, the budget needed to finance the new policy change especially to support students in private schools is not specified in the Budget Appropriation Bill for the Financial Year 2018-19,” says the letter.
Hence, the letter says, there is a concern of the move violating procedures of budget approval as it may account to usage of fund not approved by the Parliament.
The letter says that in view of the above, the National Council urges the government to ensure that the policy on removal of cut-off point is legitimized by urgently adhering to the Protocol for Policy Formulation in the interest of upholding good governance; and to ensure that all due processes are followed for any policy that the government may initiate in the future.
The National Council is expected to follow up on the letter sent to the government.