The government’s decision to do away with the cut-off point for class 11 students and essentially ensure class 11 admission for every student passing out from class 10 has been heavily criticized by private schools and others on various grounds.
This is also regarded as one of the more controversial decisions of the government that set it on a collision course with private schools and the also private school teachers. It also gave the impression that the government was not private sector friendly.
A major collateral impact of the decision has been on the economic health of private schools with high schools.
Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering came forward to give the three main reasons on why it stuck by its decision despite heavy pressure.
“I have nothing against private schools. My principle for the decision is based on the fact that firstly only around 30% of students get seats in government school and of the remaining 100% around 60% to 70% go to private schools and the 30% or 40% go home, get married or go to India and other places for work. Of the 5,000 students going to private schools around 70% take loans to go to these schools based on what I found out while asking around.
This means that many of those going to private class 11 schools are from the lower half of society as they do not have the money at hand,” said the PM.
While framing the manifesto, DNT leaders asked some former educationists, serving teachers and principals on why the class 10 and 11 cut off was made. The PM said that almost all of them said that seats in class 11 was not enough.
“So if seats are not enough then the seats should be made and given,” said the PM.
The PM said that secondly there are 15% to 10% drop outs from class 10 who are looking for jobs and they are hardly 15 or 16 years of age which is underage for doing jobs.
Listing the third reason, the PM said that in his time after class 10 one could go to Kanglung Sherubtse as that used to be the only class 11. One could also go to Samtse and Paro TTC colleges Dewathang JNEC, RIHS nursing, or go and take all the 10 or 11 technician courses like eye, ortho etc.
He said over the last six or seven years it has all become after class 12. There is no further education in the country after class 10.
“I don’t know why people are not seeing this. It is being viewed only as a DNT pledge. Even those going to Australia are 12 plus as nobody got an Australian visa at class 10 as there is no course you can take in Australia before class 12,” added the PM.
He said private schools were not happy, but the decision needed to be taken.
“Of the 21 schools I see room for four or five schools to do very well and others will not even have business,” said the PM.
The PM said if private schools want to improve their standards he is ready to get them loans, remove all immigration restrictions for foreign teachers and experts and even depute good teachers from government schools.
“The government had fixed scholarships at Nu 120,000 for science and 90,000 for arts and commerce, and I said this can be lifted and they can charge what they want provided they invest it,” said the PM.
The PM said that last year Karma Academy results were outstandingly good for class 11. Karma Academy had 250 seats only but 800 applied even though all of those who applied has a seat in government schools.
“I went to Karma Academy and said this is what I wanted. I said let us know now how we can support. We have room for one or two schools like this but not for mass education.
We don’t have the numbers and we have a state with free health and education,” said the PM.