Bhutan votes for education, examining the pledges of political parties

As the National Assembly elections draw near, five political parties have declared their commitment to presenting distinct and comprehensive educational agendas. While a few pledges remain similar across all parties, they have also brought in a unique set of proposals, focusing on crucial areas such as curriculum enhancement, teacher training, infrastructure development and equitable access to quality education.

From instituting an education council to prepare an education road map, to providing opportunity to every citizen to acquire TVET and modernizing tertiary institute facilities, the Bhutan Tendrel Party has pledged that every Bhutanese will get world-class education so they stay ahead and be fit for a developed Bhutan.

“In order to improve the quality of education in schools, training institutes and colleges, we need to improve the quality of teachers. That’s why for schools, we will do away with IWP evaluation and we will focus on making a conducive environment for the teachers and we will increase the retirement age for the teachers. So if the quality of teachers improves, naturally the quality of education improves too,” said Tshering Dorji, Bhutan Tendrel Party.

As for the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa, the party has pledged professional development along with increasing the salaries and benefits of professionals in schools and colleges depending on the economic situation and the government’s fiscal policy.

They also pledge to modernize school infrastructure and facilities to make it more inclusive.

“In order to carry forward the Royal initiative for education reforms, DNT intends to make teaching the most attractive profession. We intend to do that by expanding opportunities for professional development, service training and higher studies. We will also review the remunerations, invest in or near campus accommodation, lift administrative burden so that they can focus on the primary mandate of teaching and transform the classroom and teacher’s workstations through digitization and we will be investing the maximum budget for the education sector,” said Sonam Kinga, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa.

Ensuring that education imparted to children is world-class, saleable and competitive, the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa says their focus will be on promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics or STEM education.

However, enough and appropriate space and opportunities will also be given for Arts and Humanities subjects to thrive.

“We mainly focused on the teaching quality, which means we have to impart enough training to our teachers and also our teachers should always focus on teaching and not on administrative matters. So we would like to recruit more administrative support staff in the school so that teachers can fully engage in teaching. And also to improve the quality of education in our education system, we also pledge to have 100 per cent coverage of ECCD facilities throughout Bhutan so that children who are below five years can go to a care centre and they can learn in the process and when they go to PP, they will be well equipped,” said Ugyen Wangdi, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa.

Along with providing healthy mid-day meals to coming up with extended community primary schools in Chiwogs through multi-grade teaching, the Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa also plans to provide 100-hour professional development programmes annually.

The party also plans to have a red-carpet welcome scheme for 200 retired teachers from Australia and start the TVET curriculum in 20 schools.

“One of the most important pledges that we have put forward is that establishing STEM schools in each dzongkhag is important to bring about 21st-century requirements. In the past, the government has also introduced computer and coding systems. So Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa would like to carry this forward to all schools with better facilities. And the other pledge that we have provided is that we will also ensure autonomy and block grants to all the schools in Bhutan. So this will facilitate in decision making and improving the administration of the schools,” Kinlay Dorjee, Druk Thuendrel Tshogpa.

The PDP meanwhile is pledging to continue what they started. The PDP says it wants to establish additional Central schools in the country if they are elected.

They also pledge to open chiwog schools which will have one ECCD and classes from PP to III.

“We made holistic plans to ensure that all the students in Bhutan to accommodate in central schools and we had a plan for 160 central schools. Out of which during our time, we were able to complete 63 schools. In this election, we also are pledging, now we want to bring back because in the third government’s time, they kind of discontinued but they continued some elements but we want to review it, we want to make it more effective, impactful,” said Dorji Choden, People’s Democratic Party.

While Bhutanese across the globe will soon exercise their voting rights, it is important to know a nation’s future is intricately tied to the quality, accessibility and inclusivity of the country’s education system.

Promising an educational future founded on better-trained educators, improved infrastructure, and a commitment to delivering quality education to every corner of Bhutan, all five parties for now are promising to change the educational landscape.

And it is up to the people to decide on what kind of change the country’s education sector will undergo.

Samten Dolkar

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