Private schools have now decided to rest its future on the demand and supply curve or the forces of economy. There will always be students and parents opting for private schools over government schools.
According to the Association of Private Schools (APS), the government has no intention to change their cutoff point policy or help the private schools that are under financial distress from their sudden change in policy.
Therefore, the private schools have decided that instead of waiting for government’s supply of students, private schools will do their best to make sure that private schools thrive instead of shutting down, as predicted by the government.
Lyonchhen admitted during a meeting with the private media that the Education Minister and education conference conducted last year had advised him to implement the policy of cutoff point. Lyonchhen said that the only intention why he pushed for the policy was due to the fact that, before the class X results was declared, he was informed, informally, that about more than 4,000 students who had appeared the exam shall not qualify to study in class XI, and in order to have the students continue with their education, he had insisted on implementing the policy from last year, itself.
When the Ministry of Education approved the fee of Nu 30,000 for day scholars and Nu 50,000 for boarding students, out of 21 private schools, 9 schools agreed to the fee structure of 30 and 50. There were more than 4,000 students to be admitted in the 9 private schools.
Lyonchhen said, “However, one of the private schools in Thimphu asked the government whether topping up on fees will be allowed or not, and the government said that it will allow, and in fact, it will depend on the students. No sooner, within two to three days, we had only 4 to 5 schools who wanted to take students at 30 and 50, while the rest went to the top up group.”
“In these four to five schools, there were only around 1,700 seats and about 2,300 students were included in top up list, which mean about 2,300 parents had to top up. And I said this is not possible because this is unfair, and I can’t allow any parents to be forced to top up. I decided that there shall be no top up, and requested all schools to take students at 30 and 50,” the PM said.
Lyonchhen also revealed that private schools accused him of lying, stating that the Prime Minister initially agreed to provide top up and then suddenly decided there shall be no top up. He said that they are right, but he was fighting for the children.
This year again, private schools wanted top up, and more than 4,000 students every year for about four to five years, Lyonchhen said.
Lyonchhen said that private schools argued that they are doing well and they should be given the authority to choose the students.
They also asked the government to revise the fee from 30 and 50 to 40 and 70 because of which we had to issue the announcement.
According to the announcement, students who want to study in private schools, irrespective of their marks, will be allowed to study in private schools. The students have to register with the Ministry of Education against their name of the school of their choice, but students are not allowed to register with the individual private schools.
Lyonchhen said, “Only then we will know how many students are interested to study in private schools, but it clearly states we can give scholarship to a maximum of 2,700 students including to the failure and the drop outs because we have enough seats in the government schools.”
“If there are more than 2,700 students who have registered to study in private schools then we might not be able to give them more than that, and we will keep that in the government schools. Even if the number goes significantly, less than 2,700, as we don’t have seats in government schools, we have to admit them in private schools,” he said.
Lyonchhen also mentioned that though private schools have decided to equally divide the 2,700 students among 21 private schools, the ministry has to look into this.
Lyonchhen had informed the private schools association that the scholarship is only up to 2022, and every year the government can accommodate about 1,000 to 1,300 students in government schools without adding extra pressure, and by 2022 there will not be any students left for the private schools, and for that private schools should prepare themselves, Lyonchhen said.
Lyonchhen also said that he has asked the private schools to think for the long term, and think beyond their generation and see whether they are doing a favor to their own country. In 2022, when there will be no students for private schools, what will the private schools do. If private schools are planning on closing their schools, schools should do it today because a maximum of 4 to 5 and minimum of 2 to 3 private schools might survive.
Lyonchhen said that if the intention of the government was to take all the students in public schools, then the government could easily enroll 2,700 students in public schools by the increasing capacity of the schools.
As for private schools, they stated that despite their several submissions and discussions with the government, if the government is intended on not changing the policy, knowing the kind of impact it has on the private schools, then there is nothing they can do.
“The Prime Minister said that by 2020, as the government is not able to provide students to private schools, most of the private schools might have to shut down except for two to three schools. But I don’t think, in any case, the Prime Minister has the capacity to predict it. Whether it will be reduced to two to three schools or remains the same, or even prosper will depend on the forces of the economy,” said the APS.
“Yes of course, as a result of this policy intervention, one or two private schools may have to shut down, but we are not at all in war with the government. Obviously, we cannot fight with the government policy as there is no way, but the only way to fight for the survival is doing our best, and prove the quality. And if we are able to do that, I don’t think anyone can control it. As long as we are doing our best and proving our worth, the attempt to kill the schools or wipe out this business is futile,” the APS added.
The association said the trend can change to parents and students opting for private schools rather than the public schools.
“The only intention right now is to make sure that we do our best. Right now, our priority is that we survive this year and if we are able to survive this year, I think we will be able to work out what we want to do the following years but as of now we haven’t discussed anything,” said the APS.
APS stated that private schools did not want to wage a war with the government and make them change their policy. Further adding, “We thought about protecting the sovereignty of the education and ensuring that education will continue, and then the economy will be enhanced by participation of private entrepreneurs, but if they don’t respect that, so be it. I think the success of business will depend on how you do the business, and for as long as we are catering to the students and also giving an option for the parents, I feel most private schools will thrive.”
“We are in good terms with the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Education, and we agreed that private schools will have their own modality, and if they are going to interfere in whatever we do, then we feel that they have a certain political propaganda and are favoring certain private schools,” said the APS.