Education min­is­ter dares po­lit­i­cal par­ties on cen­tral schools

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties were not very forth­com­ing in their sup­port though

Business Bhutan - - Front Page - Pema Sel­don from Thim­phu

Education Min­is­ter Norbu Wangchuk speak­ing on the mer­its of the cen­tral school sys­tem chal­lenged po­lit­i­cal par­ties to speak against cen­tral schools dur­ing the up­com­ing elec­tion cam­paign, at the monthly di­a­logue or­ga­nized by the Jour­nal­ists As­so­ci­a­tion of Bhutan, on Thurs­day.

He said po­lit­i­cal par­ties who did so would not come back to run the gov­ern­ment.

“I dare all the po­lit­i­cal par­ties to say that cen­tral school sys­tem is not a good idea and it has lots of is­sues dur­ing the cam­paign,” Ly­onpo Norbu Wangchuk told the media.

Ac­cord­ing to Ly­onpo, his ad­vice to them is to sup­port cen­tral schools “be­cause we have all the ev­i­dence

that proves that cen­tral schools are im­por­tant, and they should re­al­ize it too.”

He said that the po­lit­i­cal par­ties might be rais­ing is­sues right now as they do not have enough in­for­ma­tion to make an as­sess­ment.

How­ever, po­lit­i­cal par­ties Busi­ness Bhutan spoke to, did not share sim­i­lar views.

Talk­ing to the pa­per, Druk Nyam­rup Tshogpa’s Pres­i­dent, Dr. Tandin Dorji said that the rul­ing party should not force their agenda on the peo­ple and in­stead of ex­pand­ing the cen­tral schools, it should learn from the al­ready es­tab­lished cen­tral schools.

“We sup­port con­sol­i­da­tion of schools, which is good but the gov­ern­ment did not do proper re­search, had in­ad­e­quate con­sul­ta­tions, im­ple­mented hastily, and the move is un­sus­tain­able and un­likely to im­prove the qual­ity of education,” said Dr. Tandin Dorji.

He fur­ther stated that the most glar­ing is­sue plagu­ing cen­tral schools is that they are es­tab­lished with funds re­ceived from donor coun­tries. “With many donors phas­ing out their sup­port, and in­ter­nal rev­enues still in­suf­fi­cient to meet cur­rent gov­ern­ment ex­penses, how is the gov­ern­ment plan­ning for such a costly over­haul? How are they go­ing to man­age and how are go­ing to con­trol all the free­bies?” he said.

He em­pha­sized that the big­ger con­cern is that the coun­try is pulling away from the path of self re­liance.

In­terim Pres­i­dent for Druk Kuen­phen Tshogpa, Jigme Dukpa, said the party sup­ports the idea of cen­tral schools, how­ever, they had a few rec­om­men­da­tions.

Th­ese in­cluded relocation of some cen­tral schools, stream­lin­ing of ad­mis­sion cri­te­ria and ac­ces­si­bil­ity to poor and needy stu­dents ir­re­spec­tive of prox­im­ity, en­sur­ing ad­e­quate in­fra­struc­tures for con­ducive learn­ing and num­ber of schools to be worked out based on ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Mean­while, Ly­onpo said many peo­ple are ask­ing ques­tions about cen­tral schools’ sus­tain­abil­ity but cen­tral schools are more sus­tain­able than non­cen­tral schools.

“Cen­tral schools are the hope for the qual­ity of education,” he said adding that the so­ci­ety is mov­ing on to the 21st cen­tury and it is high time we look into the education sys­tem, which used to be “pretty bad”, re­quir­ing ma­jor re­forms.

“Cen­tral school is the ma­jor re­form wherein lies pos­si­bil­ity and hope for higher qual­ity of education in day schools than in all the scat­tered 600 schools.”

Ly­onpo, dur­ing the talk, also touched on the de­bate of sus­tain­abil­ity and con­di­tions of cen­tral schools, in­ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties, and over­crowded hos­tels.

Ac­cord­ing to Ly­onpo, board­ing schools ex­isted be­fore cen­tral schools.

“All the prob­lems we are dis­cussing now have al­ways been there. Over­crowd­ing of hos­tels ex­isted be­fore the cen­tral school came; many stu­dents were sleep­ing on the floor and food was not good,” he said. “The prob­lems came not be­cause of cen­tral schools; they ex­isted even be­fore the cen­tral schools.”

Ly­onpo added that over­crowd­ing hap­pens only in some cen­tral schools. “It is be­cause of the tremen­dous pres­sure the com­mu­nity puts on the school, but it is tem­po­rary. Around 76 hos­tel units are un­der con­struc­tion right now and they will be com­pleted by July next year.”

Cur­rently, there are 60 cen­tral schools and an­other 60 are in the pipe­line.

“With 13,000/year birth rate sta­bi­lized in my own life­time, 120 cen­tral schools are enough for us go­ing by per­sonal cal­cu­la­tion. We will be able to main­tain them sus­tain­ably,” said Ly­onpo.

Education Min­is­ter Norbu Wangchuk talks on re­cent re­forms in the education sys­tem in­clud­ing cen­tral schools dur­ing the Press Club Di­a­logue at Jour­nal­ists As­so­ci­a­tion of Bhutan on May 18.

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