Education minister dares political parties on central schools
Political parties were not very forthcoming in their support though
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.