Many high school graduates and their parents are worried about the opportunity to go for further studies. Since the government and private colleges’ seats are filled up, the parents are hesitant to send their child outside Bhutan, due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and worsening situation in India.
Many of the students fear about their future prospects, and many of them are taking a gap year so that they can continue with their education when the pandemic is under control.
According to the Higher Education Planning Division under the Ministry of Education (MoE), there are only a few students who have registered to go for further studies through education consultancies, unlike in the past.
During the recent Parliament session, the Education Minister stated only 3,567 class 12 passed students are enrolled in different colleges, where as there are 12,595 students who have actually qualified for further studies in 2021. This means that more than 9,000 students are left without a clear direction in furthering their studies.
Dean of Royal Thimphu College (RTC), Shiva Raj Bhattarai, said RTC has no more seats left as all the seats that are approved by the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) are filled. The capacity in each section is 40 students.
He said all academic programs are completely filled this year, and the college has also not gone below 60 percent aggregate in any of the programs. Some programs have a good number of aggregate above 70.
RTC has some student applicants on the waiting list. Almost 150-200 students are still seeking admission in the college in case anybody withdraws. But as of now, RTC has not gone beyond the approved number, so if there is any direction from the government or RUB to which the college is accredited, the college might look into it, but it might also be difficult to do it immediately considering the limited resources.
He said it is a little bit arbitrary to increase the students’ intake at this time because the college also has to maintain a good teacher-student ratio for quality assurance.
All the government colleges are taking in as usual numbers of self-financed students approved by RUB. An official from RUB said the RUB will look into the issue and decide on whether to increase the self-financed students’ intake in the government colleges.
Thinley Wangmo who completed her high school from Pekhil School in Thimphu is taking up computer class as the pandemic has affected her from going for further studies.
She said she applied to Gedu College but she did not get an admission there. Her parents are worried about sending her outside due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Similarly, Arpana who also completed class 12 this year said getting an admission into a college is very difficult, no matter how much she has scored.
“I am planning to take a gap year as we are not even getting into any private colleges. But I fear that if we take a gap year, and still not get college next year, our future won’t be as expected,” said Arpana.
Preetika Rai, another high school passed student said she will be taking up a Tally course. She said she is facing a dilemma due to not finding a college.
Another high school graduate said she has applied to one of the private colleges in Bhutan but is on a waiting list.
“I am thinking of starting a business. Seems like I won’t be able to get into any college in self finance, and I don’t want to repeat next year,” said Tenchoezon who completed her high school from Yangchenphug Higher Secondary School.
PDP expresses concern and offers solutions
A People’s Democratic Party (PDP) press release said the party is deeply concerned that the DNT government is not only unprepared to address the situation but have infact worsened the situation by decreasing the in-take of students in the colleges.
The press release stated that the government should also have known that the first batch of students who were promoted to class 11 without the cut-off point would graduate class 12 this year. In fact 2,774 students out of 3,692 who received the government scholarship are among the students left without a clear direction for their further studies.
PDP also pointed out that the government colleges within the country have reduced the in-take numbers, which has fueled the gravity of the situation. Many parents and students who wished to continue further studies in government and private colleges within the country are denied admission even when the scores are as high as 70% which is a score that fetches a college admission easily during the normal times.
PDP said it is also concerned that even after three years of working on the Technical and Vocational Education program, which was taken under the office of the Prime Minister, there is no sign of any progress made. It said TVET would have been a viable option to attract these class 12 students during such a time if the government was prepared.
In view of the above situation and due to uncertainty of the opening of the borders, PDP urged the government to allow the government and private colleges within the country to take in students as per the capacity that exist in their colleges.
It suggested allowing the colleges to increase their capacity on a fast-track basis to enable them to admit students at the earliest possible time.
Another suggestion is to liaise with colleges and institutions abroad where the pandemic situation has improved and is under control to facilitate admission and movement of students.
The party said the government should prepare the Vocational and Technical Institutes in the country to absorb those students interested in the sector.
Its other suggestions were to organize meaningful engagement programs for the students and make arrangements to provide skills and enable meaningful livelihood to those students who have failed class 12 and have no means to repeat.
Many of the students in this category are the first batch of students who have received government scholarships to study in class 11, the PDP release stated.