Schools were charging up to Nu 35,000 a year
During 15th Annual Principal Consultative meeting held in Phuentsholing on 24- 25 November, it was decided that from 2019, all the government schools under Thimphu Thromde shall not collect school fees of more than Nu 700 per year, including the mandatory fees approved by the Ministry of Education (MoE).
This is after parents complained to the Thimphu Thromde that the government schools in Thimphu were charging fees far above the MoE sanctioned fees, causing a financial strain on parents in what is already a very expensive city.
Thromde Education Officer, Namgay Dorji, carried out research on fees structure in 19 government schools under Thimphu Thromde from July 2017 till June 2018.
He said, “The issues and the concerns raised by the parents were true. The government schools in Thimphu had different categories of collections ranging from Nu 1,700 to Nu 17,000 per year excluding uniform and tracksuits, transportation, tuition fees and pocket money among others. But if we include these things, the amount in some of the schools would be around Nu 21,000 to Nu 35,000 per year.”
This was much above the Ministry of Education approved fee structure in government schools which ranges from Nu 280 to Nu 440 a year based on the grade of the students. It includes school development fund (SDF), token fees, admission fees for PP students, tuition fees for Non-Bhutanese students and scout fees.
Classes PP to VI students are required to pay a total of Nu 280 a year while class VII to VIII students should pay Nu 340. Classes IX to XII students must pay Nu 445 per annum.
However, apart from these mandatory fees, almost all the government schools in Thimphu are collecting additional fees for school rimdo, school magazine, school name tag, sanitary paper or pads , school diary, etc.
Namgay Dorji said, “While some schools charge only Nu 100 for school rimdro some charge Nu 200 to Nu 300. There are schools that conduct rimdro twice in a year. Some schools have school magazine and diary whereas others don’t have it. The difference in fees is mainly because of this difference in collection by different schools,” he added.
Thimphu Thromde instructed all the schools that though different schools can collect different fees; the total amount of fees should not exceed Nu 700 including the mandatory fees approved by the ministry.
Principals from 19 government schools in Thimphu who attended the meeting agreed to collect school fees of Nu 700 from next year.
The Thromde Education Officer said, “I carried out this research because I started hearing from the parents of the students studying in government schools that the fee structure in Thimphu Thromde schools are very high. Some parents who have three children studying in government school said that sending their children to government schools is as expensive as sending them to private schools. I knew some of the parents were exaggerating, but still I wanted to find out whether the schools are really charging that high.”
His study excluded the 15 private schools. “My study was entirely based on 19 government school and not on 15 private schools because for private schools, the fees structure is being reviewed by Private School Division under the Ministry of Education,but when it comes to government schools, it is my responsibility to make sure that, the students get free education.”
“If we receive any complaints from the parents or students that they are paying more than Nu 700, we will take serious action with the concerned school management,” he added.
The fee structure for private schools in Thimphu is also based on grade levels as lower grade students pay less compared to higher grade students. However, different schools have different fee structure ranging from Nu 25, 000 to Nu 72,000 per year according to the Fee Structure of Private Schools in Bhutan 2015.
The Private School Division under the Ministry of Education is supposed to look at the private schools’ fee structure every two years.