Youth related issues in Bhutan have been a major concern for some years now. But the more recent has been that of inhuman and extremely violent acts like stabbing.  These acts are not once or twice but the media is reporting these cases every other day putting all of us into helpless dismay. Law enforcing agencies have become busy and are engaged ever more than before. They maintain that most of the perpetrators are school dropouts and unemployed youth.

Newspapers, public documents, reports, formal and informal deliberations tend to subscribe to family, education, and unemployment as the root causes of youth violence. While there are some truths in external and circumstantial causes not many seem to dwell on the cruel nature of human beings. All of us are the descendants of cave men who once lived on flesh and blood of animals. If every human being has Buddha nature and capacity for compassion, equally there are elements of animalism and cruelty. That is why there are atrocities around the world despite holy men preaching on spiritualism.

I find Nell’s 2006, article, “Cruelty’s rewards: The gratifications of perpetrators and spectators” rather apt. According to Nell cruelty occurs in three stages of predation, hunting and power coupled by aggression. Some of us watch National Geographic Channel and witness how lions, hyenas, tigers, wolves kill other animals, a clear demonstration of cruelty and dominant aggression.

The exposition of cruelty is to deliberately inflict physical or psychological pain on others and sometimes on the self. Malcolm Potts maintains the evolution of same-species killing or to attack its own kind is to expand their territory. In the same vein wars between nations, ethnic groups, beliefs are demonstrations of cruelty’s utility. Our youth stabbing each other is partly a depiction of this instinct. The good news, however, is that the environment has the potential to regulate natural cruelty and polish people into civilized beings.

I like to propose some six multi-party approaches to addressing the menace of youth violence in Bhutan. I also am aware that some of these suggestions have been made earlier in various forums formally or informally.


(1) Educational institutions

We learn that most of the culprits and perpetrators are dropouts, mostly from schools and some from colleges or training institutions. There are four possible reasons for dropouts: (a) fail in the exams and do not want to repeat anymore; (b) parents or family’s choice to keep at home; (c) expelled by school or educational institutions authorities on disciplinary grounds; and (d) students themselves staying away from schools either out of peer pressure or on some personal choice.

All these four causes and problems can be addressed through a multi-party approach and common understanding backed by legal instruments. Teaching learning atmosphere should be conducive so that there is no failure. In fact, there should be a ZERO failure policy up to Class X- which is the basic education. This already has a legal backing because it is proclaimed in our Constitution. Most of the Class X graduates are hardly 15 years old so they are too young to be employed. When a student has been declared failed it is the end of the decision for that year. But, we need to ask a series of professional and managerial questions on why a student has failed: (a) Has he/she failed because of inferior intellectual capacities of individual students? (b) Has he/she failed because of difficulty level of subject(s)? (c) Has he/she failed because of sheer carelessness? (d) Has he/she failed because of ineffective teaching and delivery on part of teachers? (e) Has he/she failed because of inadequate resources (books, stationeries, teaching learning materials, and teachers)? (f) Has he/she failed because of assessment and examinations system?

Our Continuous Assessment is supposed to address these questions. It is important to challenge ourselves by asking these questions: (i) How many schools and teachers get closer to a student know him/her, pay individual attention? (ii) What individualized plan is in place to help cope academically and other aspects of development? (iii) Have all means and strategies to help a student been exhausted in course of the year before the final verdict, “fail”, is declared?

We should also make sure that almost 100% of students in the education system should complete Class XII. This will address two important issues. One, all children would reach the employment age of 18 years; two, they grow physically, emotionally and intellectually and should become more responsible.

Any parent, relative or guardians keeping any dropout children at home without completing Class X or Class XII and without any gainful engagements should be made to face legal instruments. Much has been said on this but it appears to have remained in words or in paper. School and educational institutions should try to minimize the option of terminating students. It is understandable to resort to this decision when all other options are exhausted. However, an understanding among schools and institutions should be established to transfer students who are expelled on disciplinary grounds. If financial and economic constraint is the cause for dropping out all means should be explored to support the students in question.

It is time the Ministry of Education revised its student-teacher ratio. The current ratio of 1:32 is still too high. Although schools located in rural places may have 10-15 students or less in a class schools in urban places still suffer from overcrowded classes with over 50 students. The student-ratio should be revised to 1:25 but this should not be a general formula to work out teacher requisition in small and rural schools.

Teachers’ workload policy needs to be revisited as well. We see many teachers, especially in rural places teaching all 8 periods a day and all 42 periods a week leaving no space to breathe. It would be unfair to ask our teachers to function like machines, as even machines break down. Teachers should teach 3-4 periods a day and not more than 20 periods a week. This would mean the need for more teachers and this would have financial implications on the government.

The proposed revised teacher-student ratio and workload should serve some positive educational purposes: (a) teachers get quality time to reflect upon their teaching, do proper lesson planning and assessment of student works; (b) teachers get opportunity to spend quality time with their students during schools hours. A doable tutorial schedule should be worked out for giving attention to students (small group or individual). We should at the same time commend some schools which have initiated these services to students, but they are in isolated schools and in a sporadic manner. (c) Teachers get time to get down with professional development activities (additional reading, research, interaction, etc).

It is sad to read stories in papers that some students, especially in urban areas are reportedly involved in criminal cases (either after school hours or during weekends). This is an indication that students do not have constructive things to do. It depends on teachers on how the students are kept engaged academically and otherwise. By and large students dread their teachers and the academic tasks given to them. This comes with quality teaching, individual attention, meticulous assessment and critical feedback of home tasks, firm follow up (chasing students), assigning additional readings, making learning fun. With the existing structure and work load many of our teachers are not able to do these, largely because of time constraints. There is a need to think out of the box and bring changes by aiming high. One educationist says, “It is not that we aim too high and fail, but aim too low and succeed”.

… be continued



(The writer is Dr Singye Namgyel, Director of Sherubtse College)    

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  1. His student still in college

    Opinions matter and so does resources, as mentioned by the author it is interesting to note that crime are allocated to school-drop outs but what makes him believe in educating all pupils till eighteen is a solution is still unclear.
    How do we do this when government schools stick to cut-off marks and private schools donot educate children on loans? Author being highly educated and experienced has a chance to bring alive an old idea- establish schools with bamboos and wood and start enrolling students for class eleven from next year, that can be subsequently increased to twelve. With the knowldge he has and passions for modelling education system he could then proceed toward establishing college keeping the cost low- that would ease rupee crisis as more than six thousand Bhutanese student enter India each year to quench their educational thirst.
    We Bhutanese have superiority complex which forces us to believe college should established with concrete buildings and with five-star hostel facilities but looking other way we have alternatives. To begin is a boon, to continue is ease to end is a virtue.
    If he isn’t dumb, god will oneday whisper into good ears to start education bussibess in bhutan, that day i wish the prices for each semester remain below Nu.50000, these will only happen if we don’t want to construct another RTC. There the price is high because initial investment was high, we can erect structures to sustain education and aesthetic grandiocity should matter less for people with less money.
    If you feel my dreams are wierd, wait untill i grow up to show how we do it.
    May Bhutan shine as Nalanda of 21st century.

  2. i think linking education with employment can be one of the solutions. It can be experimented in some of the pilot schools.The country will be able to solve its un emploment  problem to some extent on  hand and help in developing positive thinking among students.

  3. Unemployment and School drop-out are not the predispositions of all youth problems. Most of the problems sprout from lack of social inhibitions, lack of moral thinking, peer pressure and experimentation. No one is too bad as the author described about the animal instincts. We are rational beings. Parenting has the most impact on one’s personality and education follows. There is no point of subjecting parents to legal instruments as the author claims. The best way to deal with youth problem is to understand the youth. Let us not blame them. When school children are involved in crime and social disturbances, unemployment can in no way be the cause of all these problems. My point here would be a little blunt but I propose it with confidence that We (Bhutanese) are not educated and socially advanced enough to accommodate all the pressures of social changes and advancement. We grow too curious about the changes and when we are bombarded with so much of changes around, we hardly know how to filter because we are all new to these new agents of the world. We need to take a deep breath and develop filters, be info-literate and have a principle of our own. Be more educated and be less curious to experiment everything that occurs in others’ culture. Bhutan is a different country and we have a culture of our own. Trying out what others do could lead us to confusion and that can lead to social unrest. Take a deep breath and realize that we have our own unique ways which the world can learn rather that trying to copy every thing that occurs on television and get carried away. And if Anti-Social Personality disorders prevail in our society, Counseling and rehabilitation centers needs more focus. Remember Author, no legal action has corrected a man. The best way to correct a man is to treat him like a man and so to women.

  4. I agree with most of Kezangs perspective. Most Bhutanese parents don’t know anything about good parenting. They let kids grow like cattle in the farm expecting them to grow up just like they used to do back in the old days. Even though they are now living in the urban areas. The parents are too busy to look after the kids, and the schools have too many kids for the teachers to do anything beyond shouting and scolding. Kids learn to behave and conform from fear but they are taught absolutely no values.

    Value education is hijacked by driglam namzha and SUPW works. Today most kids come out of school valueless and unfortunately many of them have learned the values of the streets because of the company they keep.

    So yes, maybe you cannot blame the kids for turning out they way they have. But you certainly can’t let them off the hook when they misbehave. Action must be taken and consequences brought on for their actions.

    But somehow we need to start linking youth behavior with parental responsibility and start placing accountability with parents as well. Most parents feel no obligation when their wild kids go around breaking windows, breaking in houses, howling like dogs at night after a drinking binge making other pedestrians worried or fearful. They must be made to feel responsible. 

  5. Since we have started to understand the scenario of drugs and crimes in schools and institutions, i would like to emphasize on meaning of addiction, means of being addicted and factors that contribute to addiction at least in our society.
    Addiction in short can be termed as a compulsion by the body on mind to do something, the subject rejects the idea of doing away with the habit and withdrawal symptoms arise if the habit is left, lets not restrict our views on drug addiction since gambling, shopping, excessive watching of movies/playing screen games and hyperactive sexual desire are now grouped as addictions based on specific neurological plasticity observed on subjects.
    What makes one addicted? the number of addicts are less than who experimented, some of their body rejected the activity at the very first instance while others found it pleasing.Human body and mind is designed in such way that it wants to repeat all deeds that it finds interesting or pleasing, these sense of pleasure and reward are controlled by reward pathways of the brain where Dopamine is a key molecule with dopamine receptors complementing its presence for pleasure.
    The biopsychosocial model proposed to explain addiction takes society(how liberal it is on the consumed drug or performed act), Psychology (1.How does the subject feel while in act or under the influence of drug, 2. what happens to the subject when the act or drug is not available) and the biological predisposition due to genetic makeup of the subject( does the reward pathway always produce more receptors thereby causing a crave, which can be reduced only by ingesting drugs that bind to these receptors, or do those activities that will release dopamine)
    The education system should be there to make every pupil engaged in studies but how do we do it? There are three stages of educational transitions we make in here in Bhutan before we are considered as mature students.
    Once when going to class nine, where diversity of book information increases drastically: most of the students lose interest in studies at his phase, intelligent find it a challenge and try hard but perks given to toppers are in a way insults for them. Those students who had to comply with the compelled syllabus resorted to pairing to keep the less tensed, or drugs to be in the next world.
    Other is when we go into class eleven, no one would ever understand why same syllabus in taken by all schools in the nation be it private or government schools but they are not as diverse as the need is, when a maturing student finds what he is learning is not the best thing or the only thing to learn, or if what is taught does not suit what t he learner wants to learn the idea of challenge soon becomes a burned and this is yet another juncture to addiction. Still another is while we are entering into tertiary education, the requirement of the class does not satisfy the intellectual ability of the students and what is given to do is interesting in no ways than leaving it undone. The psychological pattern soon changes and students derive pleasure from the adventure of not writing the assignment to derive pleasure, others resort to drugs and love making. To state you the fact, find those students who were in the top rank when the reached Sherubtse, do not be surprised almost seventy percent of top students either have back papers or will take four years to complete degree.
    Blaming anyone is not the intent here, lets us justify the education and subject choices offered to students, let students have god knowledge of what they would like to learn not impose what is prescribed by mass scheme.
    the topic is too narrow, its not only youth who are voilent, its not only school leavers that take drugs, its not the responsibility of parents alone to guide children because most parents are yet to understand the quality in individual required to sail across 21st century society.
    Unless there are links to money making motives at odd hours, or extraordinary advices and guidance, with current requirements of Bhutanese education not much can be done to solve the problem of addiction, we have neglected other parts of spectrum which have similar social impacts as drug addiction has.
    And remember knowing and valuing the known are different faces of different coins, unless we teach them how to understand, perhaps we never taught but assumed.
    Its in the hands of responsible person to shape our destiny, at the age of 22 a graduate will barely know the difference between job, occupation and career. who will teach citizenry and explain democracy? when will education in Bhutan start to realize reality of world, so pathetic we are; our graduates just know what a eight standard English knows.

  6. First and foremost we have to make an attempt to blend ancient wisdom with education system to nurture the modern mind. We should not squarely blame them but rather give them right antidotes. These antidotes are available within Bhutan but we ought to identify them.

    Dynamically, most of the Bhutanese are known as insiders “Nangpa” and we must continue to find new and unprecedented ways to discover our capabilities and our innate nature of mind so that we can constantly pursue the point of harmony within our ever-shifting challenges instead of relying on outside professionals to come in merely fix the symptoms of our problems again and again.

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