With not much alternatives left for higher education and training in the country, the future of thousands of class XII graduates remain at the crossroads
By Rinchen Phuntsho
Bhutan’s journey into modern education system has been a remarkable experience.
In just a period of about six decades, the modern education system has expanded from about 11 schools prior to 1961 to 1132 schools and other educational institutes in 2020.
The total enrolment has also increased at all levels of formal education and tertiary institutes within the country to 191,553. This figure is excluding students studying outside Bhutan in 2020.
MoE’s school-based education structure in Bhutan comprises of 11 years of free basic education from classes PP to X.
However, from 2019, with the initiative of the government, all class X passed students are provided scholarships to pursue their education in class XI in government and private schools.
After completing class XII, students can either continue their studies at the tertiary institutes within the country for a diploma or bachelor degree, or enter the job market.
Those who do not qualify or attend public tertiary education institutes, either through government scholarships or self-financing, attend private tertiary education institutes in the country or abroad.
The government also provides a limited number of ex-country scholarships to pursue higher education to meet the critical human resource requirements. Graduates from the Technical Training Institutes can also continue their education at the tertiary level based on their competency and interest.
Additional, the MoLHR is responsible for providing technical and vocational education and training for class X graduates. Similarly, tertiary education institutes are responsible for the provision of higher education programmes for class XII graduates.
However, of recent, with the DNT-government doing away with the class –X cut off points, there has been a huge surge in the number of graduates completing class XII.
Despite, the huge increase in the number of class-XII graduates, thousands of students who finished higher secondary schools are not happy with the government’s decision of taking lesser intake for the tertiary education.
Out of 12,595 students appeared for the BHSEC examination for the academic year 2020, only 3,567 students were recruited so far in various colleges under the government scholarship under the Royal University Colleges besides DAHE (Department of Adult and Higher Education) scholarships.
The remaining 9000 students who qualified for the tertiary education are in dilemma and not happy with the lesser intake amongst the RUB college.
Exam trends show that majority of students have done well, however, the opportunity of continuing their tertiary education is limited with the lesser intake under the RUB colleges.
And, with the boarder closure and travel restriction implemented due to the Covid-19 situation, students are now left with no options to go for the further studies outside the countries than seek admission in colleges closer home.
“Even after scoring the 68 percent, I landed up at nowhere,” said Rinchen Zangmo, 19, a disgruntled student.
She said many students have worked hard day and night with a hope to get enrolled in one of the colleges under the government scholarship, however most of them are left disappointed as colleges in Bhutan are not capable of absorbing the entire class-XII grads.
Many students said they were not happy with the government’s decision of taking lesser students for the tertiary education, which has left a good majority of them without a choice.
Meanwhile, parents are also upset that the government had not anticipated this problem when they liberalized the class X exams two years ago.
Many say they have no options left than let their children stay at home doing nothing which is a dangerous trend.
“It is quite shocking that my daughter did not get admission in any of the RUB colleges even after scoring 70 percent,” Rinchen Tshering, 43, and a father of a class XII grad said.
Some parents are even of the view that it would be better if government could recruit their children for skills development in tertiary institutes across the country.
Moreover, the issue has been politicized by some of political party stating that government is not clear on the way forward to solve the problem.
According to Tshering Dorji, a PDP member, those students who have scored over 70 percent would have easily got opportunities to pursue higher studies under the normal circumstances.
“So, while we acknowledge the fact that this is due to the pandemic, the government should not put all the blames on pandemic for not being able to solve such problems, rather, the government should come up with solutions,” he said.
PDP had earlier recommended the government to prepare the country’s Vocational and Technical Institutions to accept the remaining 9000 students who are now left with no other options.
In addition, the PDP had advised the government to coordinate with colleges and institutions abroad to create opportunities to pursue tertiary education once the pandemic situation improve.
Meanwhile, with directives from the government, the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) is looking at possibilities of taking in more students in various colleges.
As of 2020, there are 12,297 students pursuing various courses in all tertiary institutions within Bhutan. Female enrolment is slightly lower than males, making up 48.6% of the total enrolment at the tertiary level in Bhutan.
In the same year, there were 2572 students pursuing various undergraduate studies outside the country.
The largest numbers of Bhutanese students attending tertiary education are in India for scholarship students and Australia for privately funded students.
There are a total of 766 lecturers in tertiary education across the country out of which 69.7% are male.