Right policies but wrong implementation

His Majesty the King in a royal statement said that Bhutanese people are good at framing policies but weak in implementation. On close observation this is true in many ways. I have a few examples here.

Teacher training and placements

The right policy is education for all and quality education. The most critical time to mould a human brain is at the tender age when children are going to pre-primary and primary schools. Therefore, intensive education care to far flung rural youth is extremely crucial.

In practice, when the Extended Class Rooms (ECRs) and the Primary Schools in the remote dzongkhags are in need of B. Ed Primary graduates, B. Ed Secondary graduates are instead posted forcefully there.

Every year the two Colleges of Education; Samtse and Paro produce more B. Ed Secondary Graduates who are more specialised in specific subjects to be taught in Middle Secondary Schools (MSS) and Higher Secondary Schools (HSS). MSS and HSS schools are usually established in prominent satellite towns or Geog Centres if not at the Dzongkhag Headquarters or in bigger urban settlements. The schools in these convenient areas are usually filled with senior teachers and the ‘Aums’ of senior officials.

As a result fresh B. Ed Secondary graduates without primary education knowledge forced into ECRs and Primary Schools get lost in their jobs and get frustrated. The scenario is similar to a knowledgeable book gifted to a layman. Similarly, if the innocent souls in the Classes PP-VI are lucky, the B. Ed Secondary teachers may at least read books to them to cover the syllabus. If not, the children will enjoy playing in the campus till it is time to go home.

The solution is to train more B. Ed Primary teachers than B. Ed Secondary teachers. But the challenge is the priority given to B. Ed Secondary over B. Ed Primary while selecting students graduating from Class XII.

Students with higher marks give preference to choose B. Ed Secondary with an understanding there are better opportunities for job placement, further studies, promotion, transfers, etc. Our authorities need to balance the demand and supply of teachers for equal education, quality education and education for all.

Hydropower

The right policy is energy for all, clean energy and revenue generation. 10,000 MW by 2020 is visionary, great and praiseworthy. However, it seems the very high manpower demand during the construction phase and for the operation and maintenance of the power plants is not recognized. The Hydropower sector has high potential to solve our long standing unemployment problems. Instead, we continue to import expatriates and our politicians debate on national (youth) unemployment issues in every election.

For the youths, firstly the Class X and XII examinations screen out a large number depriving them the chance to pursue higher studies, especially for low income children. Then the Royal Civil Service Selection Examination (RCSSE) and a series of interviews demanding work experience simply does not make it possible for youths to get employed.

The job market demand is for Engineers, Doctors, Teachers, Health Workers, Technicians, Agriculturist, and Foresters. When the bulk of youths pursuing undergraduate studies have the opportunity to pursue only plain Science, Arts and Commerce degree, from where will the professional employees come? Lately Doctors and Engineers on whom the Royal Government spent millions having selected them as toppers from Class XII have started to fail in RCSSE. This is a complete drain of resources. It is not too late to do away with exam based screening processes and instead initiate hydropower engineering and other related technical institutions to allow Bhutanese to take part in the construction as well as operation and maintenance of such projects.

Food self-sufficiency

The right policy is poverty alleviation, equity in distribution of resources, equal opportunity. The reality is that more and more agriculture fields are being taken over for urban development, hospitals, schools, roads and power transmission towers. Mines and quarries of the rich encroach and pollute water sources and small plots of backward farmers. The most fertile and arable land fall under either state forest land or protected areas.

There is punishment for farmers if they kill wildlife and no compensation when they lose crops to wild animals. Climate change adaptation preparedness remains a dream when the impact has become a reality. There is a shift of monsoon patterns leading to drenching of paddy harvests almost every year. Army worms in 2013 and the unprecedented frog population in Tangsibji, Trongsa during paddy transplantation are some practical signs of climate change.

The DPT government pledged that Bhutan would be carbon neutral which is actually an industrialized country’s obligation but at the same time not much has been heard from PDP government on climate change. If the climate change science is true, our Agriculture sector will be the worst affected from the causes like temperature rise, loss of soil moisture, diseases, invasive species and pest, change in monsoon pattern, landslides, flash floods and Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF). With the ongoing pace of snow and glacier melt, the Himalayas are expected to see significantly reduced levels of snow and water in another 30-40 years. Subsequently the forestry pattern could change, soil fertility could degrade due to drought and hydropower plants risk becoming white elephants. Where will the food self sufficiency stand?

Yeshey Penjor

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa

Candidate for Nubi-Tangsibji

Constituency

P.O. Box 721, Thimphu

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